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Downham Lidl store backed, but councillors urge traffic review

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Councillors in Downham have backed plans for a new Lidl store on the edge of the town, despite fears over its impact on the town centre and road safety.

The proposal to develop land off Bexwell Road was supported in a vote taken during a special town council meeting last night.

But members also called for a review of traffic arrangements for the scheme, with one even suggesting there could be "dead bodies" if alternative plans were not drawn up.

Town councillors have supported plans for a new Lidl on the edge of Downham, although they are worried about the proposed access.
Town councillors have supported plans for a new Lidl on the edge of Downham, although they are worried about the proposed access.

The meeting, which took place over Zoom, followed claims from the discount retailer of widespread public support for the proposal, which they claim will create around 40 new jobs.

But nearby resident George Dickson claimed the plan was a step towards a wider industrial development of what is currently agricultural land and increased road safety dangers in the area.

He said: "Building a supermarket where they plan to build one is a massive risk in terms of congestion."

That fear was echoed by many councillors who called for county Highways officials – who the meeting was told have so far raised no objections – to look again at the access plans even as they expressed support for the idea of Lidl coming to the town.

At present, access to the store is via a turning point off Bexwell Road itself and Charlie Pyatt suggested "there will be some dead bodies" if a different plan wasn't drawn up.

Deputy mayor Jenny Groom, who chaired the meeting, said: "I think it's unfair for Lidl to expect that traffic management on what is the gateway to the town."

Meanwhile, another resident, Angela Vigrass, argued there was no need for a Lidl, given there are already three supermarkets trading in Downham.

That theme was echoed by county councillor Tony White, who suggested out of town developments have already damaged Lynn and claimed Downham faces a similar fate if the plan is eventually approved.

He said: "I think this is the first stage of getting many empty shops in Downham Market."

Frank Daymond, who chairs the town council's planning committee, derided the proposed store as a "big metal box" and claimed it was in the wrong place.

He said: "That land was put forward for housing, affordable housing. I think they've got a flaming cheeck to say we've moved on and they should allow it."

But Jacqueline Westrop said she backed the plan "on balance" and suggested there was no compelling planning reason to reject it.

And David Sharman argued the scheme would be welcomed by people living in nearby villages as well.

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