Published: 06:00, 07 April 2020
Plans to build Medway's first Lidl have been given the go ahead despite opposition from two supermarket giants.
Lidl's proposed 1,669 sq m site near Medway Road, Gillingham, has been approved by Medway Council. The verdict comes after the application was deferred twice in the last three months.
Several elected members decided to delegate powers to officers to press ahead with the scheme during the latest planning committee at Chatham's Gun Wharf last Wednesday. It has since been granted with conditions.
Medway councillor Andy Stamp (Lab) who represents the area where the Lidl site will be based, described the scheme as "controversial" but stressed that the plan continues to enjoy the support of most residents living there.
National competitors, Asda and Tesco, have opposed the move. They both submitted objection letters to Medway Council ahead of last week's meeting.
The Lidl store will include a large retail floor on land north of Medway Road and up to 40 jobs created. It will see a "brownfield" site brought back into economic use, the German discount retailer adds.
Ward councillor Cllr Adam Price (Lab), of Gillingham North, described the move as "good news" for residents living in his constituency and lauded the expansion of choice for shoppers and potential job growth.
He said: "There is going to be lots of interest when it opens, but we are in difficult times at the moment and this will not be sorted out overnight."
Cllr Stamp, also of Gillingham North, hopes that sufficient customer parking space will be provided to avoid use of residential streets opposite the site.
Speaking about the role of the three ward councillors, he added: "We have previously taken the opportunity to make sure that any of the concerns are addressed as part of the planning application process."
Lidl have told Medway Council that 97 car parking spaces will be provided, including six disabled bays and two spots for electric vehicle charging. A total of 10 cycle spaces has been planned.
In January, Tesco sent an objection letter to Medway Council saying the local planning authority had ignored the harm to Gillingham town centre retailers.
They added that Rochester or Strood would be "preferable" sites to choose while Cllr Price said he would have liked the site to be based on Gillingham High Street.
Lidl hit back at Tesco, criticising the national supermarket chain for waiting until the day before the committee to comment on the application in mid-January. The discount food retailer described this as an "unacceptable tactic".
Dozens of Kent residents have also backed Lidl's plans, with 28 people sending letters of support to the council saying "there is a need for a Lidl in Medway" while others say the site is an eyesore which needs redevelopment.
The application faced two deferrals on March 4 and January 15. These came after objections were raised by Tesco along with concerns over "excessive" delivery hours. These have since been mitigated, the council says.