Published: 23:02, 20 September 2018
| Updated: 09:33, 21 September 2018
Plans for a new Aldi supermarket have been rejected by councillors because the scheme would involve knocking down trees thought to be up to 170 years old.
Dover District Council’s planning committee voted 5-4 against the German discounter’s proposal this evening to demolish the existing Co-op store in Park Street in Deal and replace it with one of its own.
The main objections orientated around the felling of 10 mature trees, with two petitions attracting a total of 250 signatures submitted to the council.
Although Aldi offered to replace them with 12 semi-mature trees – as well as contribute £15,000 towards planting elsewhere in Deal town centre – the majority of members were unconvinced.
Cllr Bill Gardner (Lab) said: “I have no objection to the building, and lots of people in Deal have got no objection to Aldi. But the major objection is the loss of these mature trees.
“The council report states that Aldi wants to remove 10 of the trees to get 10 extra car parking spaces, and what they’re going to do is replace them with small trees.
“Some of these trees have been on this site for at least 50 or more years. As I say, the building I have no problem with but I don’t like this for the loss of trees.”
The trees which could have been felled include two mature white poplars, an oak of about 120 years old and a beech aged about 170.
Council officers had recommended the scheme be approved, explaining "there are many benefits to the proposal overall which largely accord with planning policies at a local level and those of the National Planning Policy Framework".
Although the matter of the trees dominated the debate, concerns were also raised about the loss of flats and the design of the store impacting on the local conservation area.
Cllr Marjorie Ovenden (Con) said: “I know it’s not a planning matter, but where are these folk supposed to go? It’s distressing to me that we lose this accommodation.”
Cllr Peter Jull (Con) added: “The architects could be commended for the design assuming their brief was to come up with something that is more ugly than what is already there.
“I’ve learnt from television there is a Carbuncle Cup for the worst design building of the year, and I feel a nomination coming on.”
Before the matter was debated by councillors, Aldi property director Greg Wainer outlined the benefits of the project and tried to reassure members only a "local minority" objected about the felling of trees.
He added: “We’ve retained as many trees as possible across the site, including three of those which are covered by the existing tree protection order.
“The scheme would simply be unviable if we were to retain the three trees in the centre of the site."
Mr Wainer also said up to 50 jobs would have been created had planning permission been granted.
Cllr Bob Frost (Cons) has since slammed the planning committee's decision.
He said: "Yet another extraordinary decision by DDC councillors on planning voting again against the recommendations of the officers.
"In a week where Fenwicks in Canterbury are laying off 25 workers and John Lewis report a 99% drop in profits they turn down a brand new supermarket in Deal with 50 jobs.
"Any other council would be moving heaven and earth for such investment in their town centre."
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More by this authorDean Kilpatrick, local democracy reporter