‘Rethink Heacham Lidl access plans’, parish council chief warns

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Community leaders have called for a re-think of multi-million pound supermarket plans which they say will increase road safety risks in their area.

County roads officials have admitted there is likely to be congestion at the proposed Lidl store in Heacham during the summer months.

However, they also maintain the discount retailer’s plans for access from the A149 will otherwise work satisfactorily.

But parish councillors believe that view does not take proper account of the extent of peak traffic demand and have called for an urgent review.

Their chairman, Michael Williamson, said: “Highways are taking the easy option of saying if that’s what they’re proposing, that looks OK.”

Plans for a new £4.5 million store on the site of the former RJ Stainsby garage, next to the A149, were unveiled last summer.

Although many residents are thought to support the development, questions over access to and from the site are a major issue.

Last month, the parish council’s lighting and watching committee voted to lodge a holding objection to the scheme, partly on transport grounds.

And that view appears to be hardening after county council officials indicated they were willing to accept Lidl’s plan for a right turn lane on the A149 to enable access to the store from the north.

In a letter to borough council planners, dated last Monday, highway engineer Liz Poole said that, although they acknowledged the plan was likely to create congestion during peak summer periods, it would operate properly for the rest of the time.

She said the access had been shown to operate satisfactorily based on September traffic flows, which were 12 per cent above normal levels.

She added: “Whilst the impact of the peak summer months is a consideration, it is not an appropriate reason to recommend objection to the application.”

But Mr Williamson said the potential for a long queue of traffic in the centre of the road waiting to turn right into the store, combined with the volume of peak summer traffic, was a safety issue that should be addressed.

He believes that a roundabout, although not ideal, would be a better option than what is currently proposed.

He said: “It’s all very well saying that they’ve taken September’s traffic flows but that’s nothing like June, July or August. Highways really have got to review that.”

But documents submitted as part of Lidl’s planning application to West Norfolk Council showed the company had rejected a request for a roundabout when it was put to them by county council officers in a meeting last November.

The company said its transport consultants, SCP, had demonstrated that a roundabout of the type requested by the council would be “out of scale and character in the context of the proposed development scheme.”

The paper added that the authority had asked for an assessment of what conditions would be like at the busiest times.

But it continued: “Notwithstanding, it is agreed that the proposed development does not need to design for such periods.”