JOB CREATION: Councillors will decide this week whether to approve the scheme
JOB CREATION: Councillors will decide this week whether to approve the scheme

PLANNING officers are recommending approval for Lidl and Home Bargains stores on the outskirts of Barnard Castle, creating 60 full-time jobs.

Durham County Council’s south and west planning committee is to decide on the multi-million pound development on Thursday, January 23. The scheme is proposed for the former Addison’s auction house site on the A688.

In recommending the green light, senior planning officer Steven Pilkington said the development was unlikely to have a significant impact on the town’s high street and would offer people more choice. This would reduce “retail leakage” from the town to other areas such as St Helen Auckland, he added

Morrisons supermarket had objected to the scheme.

However, Mr Pilkington said an independent assessment found that the Lidl and Home Bargains scheme would mean a 19 per cent reduction in the sale of food and groceries at Morrisons and a six per cent drop in households items.

He added: “As a result, the assessment concluded that the proposals would not have a significant adverse impact upon the Morrisons store’s overall viability or lead to its closure. This is because Morrisons would maintain its status as the only foodstore of any significant size in Barnard Castle town centre and would continue to benefit from trips on foot linked to other shops and services in the town centre, particularly, given its location adjacent to the main car park serving the town centre.”

Former MP for Teesdale Helen Goodman had objected to the Home Bargains part of the development, saying it would have an impact on shops selling similar products in the town.

However, Mr Pilkington said: “There are relatively few operators which offer a similar range of goods to that which would be on offer within the new Home Bargains store – and the stores most likely to compete directly would be Boyes, Boots and Superdrug, all of which offer a broader range of products than would likely be sold by Home Bargains.”

Planners received 27 letters objecting to the development and 102 letters of support.

Barnard Castle Town Council backed the scheme but had concerns about access for vehicles, pedestrians and public transport. Mr Pilkington responded that the developer, Consolidated Property Group (CPG), had proposed to build a second footpath to the site and new bus stops.

The Highways Authority said the “proposed access arrangements to the site are acceptable”. Mr Pilkington said the development would “reduce the residential amenity” of people living nearby, particularly those at Prospect Place, but he said the level was not considered significant.

Commenting on the recommendation for approval, Martin Ridgway, group managing director of CPG, said: “Since the scheme was launched over a year ago, we have worked with the council and statutory authorities to address the issues raised through the public consultation and to ensure the development meets local needs.

“In addition to increasing local food shopping options, the proposal will significantly reduce the need for local residents to travel by car to do their main food shopping further afield. The Lidl foodstore alone could lead to a reduction in CO2 emissions of 2.4 tons per day or 873.6 tons per year. Furthermore, the site is accessible by a variety of non-car modes and the scheme includes many other features that make it a highly sustainable development opportunity for the town.”

The planning meeting takes place at 2pm at County Hall, Durham.

If approved, work on this multi-million pound scheme is expected to start later this year.