Discount supermarket Aldi has won its bid to open a new supermarket in Gloucester.
Controversial plans to build the new store on a vacant site at the junction of Bristol Road and Clifton Road were approved by Gloucester city councillors tonight.
Some 577 people signed a petition calling on the plans to be refused because of fears that it may impact on trade at the nearby Griffin’s Friendly Corner Shop, in Seymour Road.
But planning agent Dan Templeton, speaking on behalf of Aldi, said: “It is important to remember what the current state of the site is. We need to consider an alternative use for the site. This is a prominent site on a principle road into the city centre and it currently doesn’t make any contribution to the townscape.
“Aldi stores compete with other main stores and compete less so with other local stores and shopping centres.”
Rival supermarkets attempted to block the planned 1,600 sq m supermarket. Speaking at a packed meeting, Richard Holmes, representing Midcounties Co-operative, who run a store on Tredworth High Street, said: “A new Tesco in Churchdown has already taken 35% of trade away from my client’s store in that location. Small shops provide an invaluable service to communities especially to vulnerable or older people who struggle to get to the larger stores. This store would undoubtedly have an impact.”
Councillor Mark Hobbs (L, Moreland) said: “I am concerned about the impact on local amenities. During my time as a councillor I have seen community life being drained from this area.”
The design of the red-brick building has been widely criticised. But principal planning officer Gavin Jones said: “The application is in keeping with the local area. It is our officer’s view that it is of an acceptable design and is in keeping with the local characteristics. It is potentially not perfect but thought has gone into this and it is not just an out of the box supermarket.”
Councillors struggled to come to their ultimate decision to approve the plans. Six said yes to the plans but councillors Mark Hobbs, Anna Mozol and Tarren Randle. Councillor Gerald Dee abstained.
Councillor Mary Smith (L, Robinswood) said: “My heart says I want to vote against it but my head can’t think of a really good reason. The problem is that as far as we are concerned in planning law we have got no right to say no because it is unpopular”.
Councillor Gordon Taylor (C, Abbey) said: “The site looks awful and it brings the area down. Having a nice building there will help.”
Councillor Tarren Randle (C, Barnwood) said: “I know that the Griffin shop has been there for a long time and I support what they do in the community but this site has been empty for a long time.”