Lidl Lower Earley’s plan questioned as council calls for denial
Controversial plans for a new Lidl supermarket and homes in Lower Earley could be in doubt after local council recommended the project be denied.
The Earley City Council Planning Committee met to discuss plans for a new Lidl and 43 homes off Meldreth Way in Lower Earley.
Developers from Lower Earley Properties Limited have argued that the plan will provide affordable housing and much-needed employment opportunities in the area.
But they faced stiff opposition from neighbors who affectionately call out the Swallows Meadow development site.
The developers also drew the ire of Liberal Democrat activists in the region when trees at the site were felled by contractors last November.
The Earley City Council Planning Committee recommended that the plan be refused for 10 reasons:
- The land is virgin land, not an industrial wasteland
- Perceived loss of local amenity (the area being affectionately known as Swallows Meadow) – with committee arguing that Lidl would “destroy the green corridor” and that the plan would not improve the local environment
- The pedestrian path proposed through the development “presents an urban aspect” and does not highlight the area.
- Lidl is far from other retail sites and is more likely to attract “passing business” than to serve immediate neighbors
- The committee argued that access to development is not adequate or secure
- Committee says development does not respond to climate emergency with lack of sustainability measures for homes and Lidl
- The committee maintains that the energy declaration submitted as part of the plan does not specify that photovoltaic panels would be installed on all residential properties.
- The Lidl could present a traffic hazard, with the possibility of fast vehicles exiting the Lower Earley Way roundabout
- Claim that the ecological statement submitted for the plan does not take into account the existence of a badger
- They claim that the acoustic and lighting ratio submitted for the plan is inadequate
A special meeting of the Earley City Council Planning Committee has been called to discuss the plan. Of the six committee members present, five are Liberal Democrats and one member, Marion Shaw, is a member of the Labor Party.
The council is controlled by the Liberal Democrats. Of the 25 advisers, 21 Lib Dems, two are Labor and two are Conservatives.
Earley City Council is just a consultant. While the opinions of the Council Planning Committee may influence decisions, the final decision on the plan will be made by the Wokingham Borough Council Planning Committee.
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For his part, a spokesperson for Lower Earley Properties said, “Our plans will deliver high value purchases to local families, create hundreds of new jobs and provide 43 units, 40% of which will be affordable housing.
“We are also offering new charging stations for electric vehicles, nearly 150 new trees and additional landscaping on the site.
“While there are always people who will oppose new investments, we are delighted that more than 600 local residents have written to support our plans.
“Given the level of public interest, it is only fitting that Wokingham Borough Council takes the request to their planning committee so that elected members can make the final decision.”
Of the 43 housing units offered, 17 in total will be affordable. Five will be affordable through shared ownership, and 12 will be affordable through social rent.
If approved, the Lidl would be accessible from Meldreth Way and homes would be accessible from Chatteris Way.
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You can view the plans in their entirety, including the recommendations from Earley City Council, by typing part number 211686 into the Wokingham City Council planning portal here https://planning.wokingham.gov.uk/FastWebPL/ welcome.asp.
Developers and naysayers have recently clashed with competing opinion polls supporting both views.
A survey by the developers showed that 662 people supported the plan, compared to 117 people voicing objections.
However, a Facebook poll returned the opposite result, with 518 members of the Earley Residents Discussion Board Facebook community voting they didn’t want Lidl and 159 people voting for the Lidl plan.