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Councillors 'minded' to support Lidl plan for new Downham store



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Plans for a new Lidl store on the edge of Downham look set to proceed, if a suitable package of town centre mitigation measures can be agreed.

West Norfolk councillors today rejected officials' advice to block the proposed development on land off Bexwell Road.

Instead, the authority's planning committee voted unanimously for a resolution indicating it was "minded" to approve the scheme, subject to the outcome of negotiations between officers and the discount retailer.

Plans for a new Lidl store on the edge of Downham have been supported by councillors, though final permission has yet to be granted.
Plans for a new Lidl store on the edge of Downham have been supported by councillors, though final permission has yet to be granted.

Officers had called for the scheme to be rejected because of the impact on both the countryside and the town centre.

Rival chain Morrisons had already warned its store in the town could be forced to close if the Lidl scheme was approved.

And, ahead of the meeting, Lidl offered a £50,000 package of measures to help minimise any impact of its proposal.

But Methwold representative Tom Ryves dismissed the offer as "pocket money".

And committee chairman Vivienne Spikings claimed the figure was a "drop in the ocean".

She added: "If you're going to offer money, let's have a fair offer on the table.

"This is a step too far. It will alter Downham, but it certainly won't be for the better."

However, Jo Rust argued the offer should be investigated further.

Another committee member, Terry Parish, said the company's store in Heacham had led to the closure of a supermarket and butcher in the village, even though a retail assessment claimed there would not be any impact from the scheme.

But Downham East ward councillor Josie Ratcliffe said there was "overwhelming" public support for the application in her area.

And committee member Christine Hudson told her colleagues: "We are guilty of trying to tell the people of Downham Market what they want.

"Who are we to tell the people of Downham Market where they should shop?"

Earlier, speakers for Lidl expressed surprise at officers' view that the scheme would have a negative impact on the countryside, claiming the issue had not been raised until their report to the committee was published.

Denver ward councillor Alan Holmes said the damage had already been done by the removal of trees from the site of new McDonald's and Starbucks outlets, which were approved by the committee two years ago.



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