Lidl has refused to rule out reapplying to open a store in Herne Bay after its application for a new branch was narrowly rejected this week by councillors.
Canterbury City Council’s planning committee considered a recommendation made by officers to refuse the budget supermarket’s bid for the development off the Old Thanet Way, near Greenhill, last Tuesday night.
Seven councillors voted to refuse permission, while six were in favour.
Oliver McGuinness, regional property director for Lidl UK, says the supermarket will now “take stock” and “spend time assessing” what to do next.
“We’re still keen to have a store in Herne Bay,” he said.
“Because we don’t own the land, we’re not bound to that site.”
In the planning report, it was said the land in question is “protected open space” providing a “natural green buffer” between the dual-carriageway and nearby homes.
The officer concluded there was no obvious need for the development that would outweigh the “material harm” it would cause to the area.
A number of the committee members believed the land was of no value to residents in its current form.
Cllr Robert Jones (Con, Herne and Broomfield) said: “The public can’t access it and, in my opinion, it’s not a very nice open space.
"The landscaping around the site would actually improve the area and I feel that there is justification of the need for this site.”
Cllr Amy Baker (Con, Blean Forest) also said the overwhelming support shown by locals for the development during a Lidl-run public consultation gave the committee the “exceptional circumstances” required to accept the plan.
However, Cllr Ashley Clark (Con, Gorrell) argued this would “throw the Local Plan into the bin” and would leave “every other protected open space in the district up for grabs for unscrupulous developers”.
He added: “It doesn’t have to look like Kew Gardens, it doesn’t have to have herds of wildlife going across it and it doesn’t have to be open to the public.”
Lidl had wanted to build a new 2,124 sq metre store with 125 parking spaces.
Speaking at the meeting, Mr McGuinness claimed it would create 40 jobs and enhance the lives of Herne Bay residents.
But to build on protected land an applicant must, among other criteria, show there is a “demonstrable need” for a development in order to offset the “harm” construction would cause.
The officers stated there is no such need, citing the number of supermarkets nearby.