Supermarket wars are heating up on the Isle of Sheppey, after Tesco won a legal bid to block a new Aldi from opening.
The German discount chain was granted permission to build a brand-new flagship store opposite Neats Court Retail Park in Queenborough in January, having first applied to Swale council for permission in June 2019.
Aldi was getting ready to start construction earlier this year, and had put its existing town centre shop, in Millennium Way, Sheerness, on the market for £2m.
It said it would close the 15-year-old branch as it was no longer “fit for purpose.”
However, in an updated statement – prepared by Planning Potential on behalf of Aldi Stores Ltd – it has been revealed that rivals Tesco have since had the decision quashed via a Judicial Review.
It means the application has now gone back to Swale council to redetermine.
The planning permission decision was challenged on three grounds. These were that not enough consideration had been given to the impact of the proposals on the town centre as a whole, only on the heart of the shopping district; that the decision to grant permission was “procedurally incorrect” as there was no screening to determine if an environmental impact assessment (EIA) was needed; and that there were inconsistencies in the planning committee’s decision-making.
Aldi and Swale council agreed to consent to a judge’s decision on the first two points and the planning approval was quashed.
In its updated explanation, Aldi insists an EIA would not be needed as the site is allocated for large-scale employment use in the borough’s Local Plan.
A spokesman also says a new retail impact assessment has been undertaken, and concluded that relocating the store would have “no impact on Sheerness town centre or other centres that would warrant refusal”.
But Aldi moving from the heart of Sheerness to an out-of-town location is something which town councillor Brian Spoor believes will severely disadvantage residents who cannot drive.
He said: “It will have a massive impact on Sheerness; it’s going to impact on people who don’t have cars and walk to Aldi.”
'It will have a massive impact on Sheerness...'
Cllr Spoor said he had previously had meetings with Aldi and had suggested it kept the Sheerness branch.
“Iceland has kept its store open in Sheerness even though it has one at Neats Court and it doesn’t really interfere with the trade in Sheerness – why can’t Aldi do the same?” he said.
Aldi said its plans for the new store at Queenborough arose after a review of its store portfolio found its existing store in Sheerness was “dated”, having opened in 2005, and “significantly smaller” than its latest format store size.
“As a result, the store no longer reflects the company’s latest and most up-to-date operational requirements and principles,” it said.
Aldi considered various options, the firm said, to try and improve the existing store including with an extension or complete redevelopment, but the site is “simply too small to accommodate a larger store and extension is not possible as it is bounded on all sides by the existing roads network”.
The company said its updated statement continued to reaffirm the overall planning position as to why the council was “correct” in reaching the decision it did, that there had been no material changes in circumstances since that decision was reached, and that planning permission should be granted.
It is not yet known when the plans will be re-discussed.
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