A Lidl store in Wilmslow that attracted criticism from local MP Esther McVey, alongside a 600-signature petition against the scheme, has returned to Cheshire East’s planning committee after a decision was deferred last December.
Lidl has proposed to demolish its existing store on the site off Dean Row Road in Wilmslow, along with the neighbouring Energie leisure centre, and build a 27,000 sq ft supermarket.
The plans were originally recommended for approval at Cheshire East’s Northern planning committee on 7 December last year, despite fierce opposition from both local politicians and residents.
Local residents had objected to the loss of the leisure centre, which had 3,000 members and includes a gym, swimming pool, and social space.
The fitness centre closed on 31 December 2017 after “significant pressure on cash flow”, and “a major loss of monthly membership due to the uncertainty of the club”, according to the centre’s directors. The club’s members were recommended to switch to Energie’s Stanley Green facility, two miles away.
Lidl’s planning application also received 415 letters of objection from residents, and a petition against the scheme received around 600 signatures.
The project has also been met with opposition from local politicians including the area’s MP and some councillors.
MP for Tatton Esther McVey also argued the need for the development “is not demonstrated” and said the new store would be against planning policy, while local councillor Barry Burkhill said the scheme would result in “a net reduction of between 30 and 40 jobs” and did not fit into planning policy as a result.
McVey also said it “difficult to argue [the fitness centre] was surplus to requirements” given that it had around 3,000 members.
A decision on the project was deferred in December after councillors sought further information on the scheme’s transport and highways implications, and an additional representation from the Public Health Department on the loss of the leisure centre.
Lidl’s proposals will be discussed when the Northern planning committee meets on 14 December, with the proposals again recommended for approval.
Cheshire East planning officers said it was “very clear that the existing gym is a valuable and convenient facility for many local people,” but added “facilities provided at Energie are available at several locations within the Wilmslow and Handforth area, and any additional demand arising from the loss of the Energie gym and pool can be accommodated within these alternative facilities”.
“It is acknowledged that some of these alternative facilities might be more expensive, or not quite as convenient, but this is not a material planning consideration in this case,” said the report.
“It is also important to note that unlike outdoor open space, indoor facilities are not a finite resource, and their supply will be very much dependent upon demand and market forces.
“It has been demonstrated that there is an adequate supply to meet demand without the facilities at Energie.”
The Secretary of State has also received a request to intervene on the application, meaning any resolution will be subject to a decision by the Department for Communities and Local Government.
The professional team on the project includes One Design as architect.