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Published: 10:00, 21 December 2018
| Updated: 10:26, 21 December 2018
Aldi is set to open in Deal next year.
The discount supermarket’s plans for the former Co-op site in Park Street were given the green light by Dover District Council’s planning committee last night.
As was the case when members rejected the application in September, the debate was dominated by the felling of mature trees on the land.
A motion to reject the proposal for a second time ended in a 5-5 tie, with chairman Cllr Frederick Scales (Con) supporting the scheme with his casting vote.
Aldi property director Rob Lithgow says he is “still hopeful” that demolition and construction work can be completed in time for a 2019 opening.
He told committee members: “Aldi continues to be fully committed to the plans for a multi-million pound redevelopment in this important town centre and policy compliant site.
“As with all town centre sites it does have its constraints, and we have worked hard to address them.
“We know the overwhelming majority of local people would like Aldi to deliver a store as soon as possible following the Co-op’s recent closure.”
"10 mature trees are still to be felled to make way for a small number of extra car park spaces..." Simon Phillips
The German chain claimed the project “simply would not be viable” if the trees had to remain, but two petitions against the move attracted a total of 250 signatures.
Campaigners said Aldi’s offer to replace the felled trees with 12 semi-mature ones – as well as a contribution of £15,000 towards planting elsewhere in Deal – would not compensate for the loss.
Simon Phillips added: “One silver birch has been reprieved, but 10 mature trees are still to be felled to make way for a small number of extra car park spaces.
“The majority of Deal residents, I believe, value these mature trees as was demonstrated by our earlier petitions. We would argue these trees are irreplaceable – once they are gone, they are gone.”
The supermarket has also pledged to install a plaque in tribute of three school boys killed on the site during the Second World War as some of the trees are said to have been planted in their memory.
Around 370 letters of support were submitted to the council – compared to 23 objections – but Cllr Pamela Hawkins (Lab) said both sides of the argument could be factored in.
She told councillors: “Deal would benefit from all of this and I understand there are a lot of people who want the competition and see a lower-priced supermarket in the town.
“But we have got to be careful that it is balanced, and it shouldn’t be a case of we only have one or the other and we can’t have both. I’m really disappointed Aldi could not adjust their car parking slightly.”
But Cllr Trevor Bond (Con) described the argument for refusal as being “not robust enough”, and eventually planning permission was granted by seven votes to two.
The demolition of the existing building will also see the loss of nine residential properties and four retail units.
Cllr Marjorie Ovenden (Con), who voted against the proposal back in September, concluded: “Last time I voted against because of the loss of the flats from the site in particular.
“Now we can demonstrate across the district a net gain in terms of small units of accommodation, I – despite the fact I share some regret at the loss of some mature trees – find myself able to support.”
Aldi claims up to 50 jobs will be created at the new store, which will have 1,254 square metres of retail space and 104 parking spots.
More by this authorDean Kilpatrick, local democracy reporter