Plans for a new Aldi on the outskirts of Wolverton were rejected – but only just – following a lively debate on Thursday (April 4).
Councillors voted by five votes to four to oppose the proposal to redevelop the Herald Snooker Club site, off McConnell Drive, after some councillors argued that they should not just think about Wolverton.
Cllr Rob Middleton took himself out of the decision at the Development Control Committee so he could speak against the application on the night.
He said that a new store on the 1.02 acre site would not be compliant with council plans, and it would put redevelopment of the Agora site in the town centre at risk.
The outdated shopping centre has recently been purchased by TOWN for £2m and there are plans to lever in £25m of further investment into the town centre. But it is apparently so finely balanced that the new Aldi would pose a risk to that scheme.
Cllr Middleton said: “It is £3m investment with Aldi versus £25 million with the Agora. It does not make sense.
“Aldi were offered a way out, to delay the application until a later date but they refused to do so. I understand the need for discount retailers but this application at this time would harm the town centre investment.”
But planning agent Dan Templeton, speaking on Aldi’s behalf, said that the company had not been invited to delay the application. “What would be the merit of delaying?”
He added that the Agora had been an issue for several years and argued that the Aldi application would not prevent proposals coming forward.
Council planning officers had recommended the Aldi scheme for refusal. Their report says that a respected retail consultant remains convinced that a supermarket on the outskirts of town would take £4.5million of spending money out of the town centre.
And council director Tracy Darke said: “He remains vehemently against because of the retail impact on Wolverton.” It could adversely affect 40 per cent of the smaller retailers in the town centre, she said.
But Cllr Andrew Geary said the Aldi could be complementary to the town centre, not in competition with it.
“The council has a financial interest in the Agora and I hope it does not have a bearing here,” he said. And instead of being seen as £3million investment against £25million, it could all be seen as investment in Wolverton.
But Cllr Mick Legg warned of the possible impact of a large supermarket on the outskirts of town. Referring to Bletchley, which he said was in need of regeneration, he said it could “scupper the regeneration of Wolverton.”
But Cllr Rex Exon said an Aldi could be a benefit to other nearby neighbourhoods, a point agreed by Cllr Paul Alexander. Cllr Alexander said the new store could benefit Bancroft, Stacey Bushes, and Blue Bridge.
Before the vote, councillors were told that there had been a late objection from town planning consultants, David Lock Associates, against proposals for a Toucan crossing. The company sees it as a breach of MK’s grid road system of underpasses.
Councillors voted to refuse the application by five votes to four.