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Lidl will move into the former Focus premises in West Street, Sittingbourne

21 February 2014
by Emma Grove

Members of the planning committee discussed the application for the former Focus store in West Street, which will create 14 jobs, at a meeting.

Former Focus store has been given approval to reopen as a Lidl

Former Focus store has been given approval to reopen as a Lidl

Lidl applied for a 115 square-metre rear extension to accommodate warehousing and staff-welfare requirements, plus changes to the car park, exit and entrance and shop front in preparation for it to re-open as one of its stores.

A single vehicular access point from Dover Street has also been proposed for customers and delivery vehicles.

Objections received by the council included concerns about traffic gridlock, increased HGV movements, construction noise causing a disturbance and that another shop selling alcohol will increase anti-social behaviour.

West Street resident Mandy Fulcher spoke at the meeting and presented a 180-signature petition against the development.

“People talk about regenerating the high street but they are pushing out all the little businesses,” she said.

There are plans to build a Lidl store in Sittingbourne town centre

There are plans to build a Lidl store in Sittingbourne town centre

“Our small businesses do not stand a chance if Lidl move in. It’s also going to cause a lot of congestion around the one-way system.”

She pleaded with the committee members to refuse the application, saying if they believe the town’s future is in supermarkets they should allow it, but if they believe in supporting small shops and local people, they should turn it down.

Chalkwell councillor Roger Truelove (Lab) agreed with her and said he thinks the store will look “ugly”.

He said: “We don’t need any more supermarkets – we need to retain our small shops."

Committee chairman Cllr Richard Barnicott (Con) admitted he “didn’t really like” the proposal and as a former small business owner himself who had suffered at the hands of similar developments.

Cllr Roger Truelove

Cllr Roger Truelove

But he said competition is not a reason to refuse.

Lidl’s south east development manager Tom Claxon said the company will be improving the car park with larger, children’s and disabled bays and also said it will bring 14 new employment opportunities.

The committee approved the application with a 10-4 majority in line with officer Martin Evans’ recommendation.

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