Lidl scheme 'won't harm Barnard Castle high street'
By Trevor Brookes - Editor
PROPOSALS for Lidl and Home Bargains stores on the outskirts of Barnard Castle have taken a big step forward after council planners said the scheme would not harm the town centre or Morrisons.
Durham County Council has rejected fears that the multi-million pound development at the former Addison auction house site, in Staindrop Road, would hurt the high street.
Instead, chiefs say the proposal would drive competition, give more choice to residents and help stop millions of pounds “leaking” out of the town as shoppers go elsewhere.
Durham County Council’s planning department has yet to make an official recommendation on whether approval should be granted.
However, in a report published last week, council spatial planning officer Steven Pilkington said: “The proposed development would not result in a significant adverse impact upon the vitality and viability of any existing centres, including Barnard Castle. The proposal will provide new shopping provision within the town that will enhance choice and has the potential to reduce expenditure leaking to other centres and also leaking outside of the county. There are also economic and regeneration benefits associated with the investment and job creation of the scheme as a whole.”
Mr Pilkington added that Barnard Castle town centre is “displaying good levels of vitality and viability” with a below average vacancy rate.
Teesdale’s MP, Helen Goodman, had previously said plans to construct a Home Bargains shop could “create unfair and unnecessary competition” for shops such as Boyes. Experts acting on behalf of Morrisons lodged objections to the Lidl plan, saying it would reduce turnover in the town centre by 35 per cent.
However, there has been a large amount of support from residents with dozens of letters from those who want more choice and competition for Morrisons.
Durham County Council commissioned retail experts Lichfields to write a study on the potential impact of the scheme, which has been put forward by developer Consolidated Property Group.
In the report, Lichfields has pointed to a retail study last year which said Barnard Castle retains about 45 per cent, or £13million, of spending on convenience or food goods by people in the catchment area.
However, some 83 per cent, or £45million, of spending on household items, electrical goods, clothes and shoes is “leaking out” of the town to Darlington, Bishop Auckland and the Metrocentre.
Lichfields said although Morrisons in Barnard Castle was underperforming, the Lidl and Home Bargains scheme would not lead to its closure or have an adverse impact.
“This is because it would maintain its status as the only foodstore of any significant size in Barnard Castle town centre. The store offers a wide range of facilities including wet fish, butchery and bakery counters and a delicatessen,” said Lichfields. “We would add that, in practice, it is likely that Morrisons would respond to any new competition in the form of a new Lidl store by various means – including through more in-store promotions and by adapting their product ranges.”
But Lichfields warned there would “unquestionably” be some impact felt by town centre retailers. The consultants added: “Even if one of the larger multiples, such as Boyes, Superdrug or Boots, were to close, this would lead to dispersal of trade which would help to support the remaining town centre stores in that sector.” It is proposed that a planning condition would be imposed to “limit the extent to which the new Home Bargains would compete with existing retailers”.
Restrictions may mean the store could only be used for the sale of carpets, furnishings, electrical goods, pets and pet supplies, office equipment, DIY products, garden goods and motor vehicle goods. The shop would also be restricted on the amount of space it could give to food and drink, pharmaceutical goods, toys and games and clothing.
Lichfields added: “Boyes store, as with other retailers in the centre, would retain the trading advantage associated with its location.”
Meanwhile, following a meeting with highways officers in July, changes have been made to address highways concerns including a new section of footpath on the A688.