TOWN JOBS: Home Bargains, which has a slogan of “top brands, bottom prices”, is planned as part of the Lidl scheme on the edge of Barnard Castle
TOWN JOBS: Home Bargains, which has a slogan of “top brands, bottom prices”, is planned as part of the Lidl scheme on the edge of Barnard Castle

PLANS to build a discount home store on the outskirts of Barnard Castle have been branded “unfair” by the dale’s MP who says 19 businesses would be affected.

MP Helen Goodman made the claim in an objection letter submitted to Durham County Council’s planning department last week.

She says plans to construct a Home Bargains shop as part of a retail scheme on the former Addison’s auction site would “create unfair and unnecessary competition”.

In her objection letter, Ms Goodman states she is writing as both as a resident and MP.

While she has objected to Home Bargains, no mention is made of the proposed discount supermarket Lidl which would also be built at the site.

Ms Goodman said Barnard Castle is a thriving and pleasant market town, which currently has a good high street and a rich variety of independent shops.

She added: “This environment is fragile and likely to be disrupted by an out-of-town retail outlet. My concern is that if these plans were to go ahead, jobs created by this development would be offset by the losses of others from long-standing local businesses.

“Setting up another [Home Bargains] in such close proximity to Barnard Castle would take trade from over 19 town centre businesses.

“These include Allium Interiors, Andalucia, Barnard Castle Framers, Bohemia/ Lamplighter, Boyes, Connolly’s Toyshop, Clarendons, Decor Carpet Centre, Floors for Living, Castle Classics Household Textiles, Maxwells, Mouncey Fine Arts, Niche, Olivers, Oswells, Ruby and D, Sandra Parker Studio and Wilsons.”

Home Bargains, which has a slogan of “top brands, bottom prices”, sells discount kitchen and homeware goods, garden items, toys, health and beauty items as well as electronics.

So far the overall development at the former Addisons site has attracted seven other objections from homeowners close to the proposed site, two of which worried about the impact Home Bargains and Lidl may have on existing town centre shops.

There is one supporting lettering and Durham Police have also commented, advising it would be wise not to include any ATMs in the scheme because of its isolated location.

Reaction to Ms Goodman’s objection has been mixed.

Andrew Boyes, owner of W Boyes and Co Ltd, which has 66 stores and has had a presence on Horsemarket for the last 36 years, said: “Any big retail development will dilute the market to some extent and it will spread out the trade more thinly.

“We have a number of stores in locations that are near to Home Bargains and Lidls and we are quietly confident that it wouldn’t pose a problem.

High streets they say are dying out, not helped by the internet and out-of-town developments which are taking business away. Planners have to take some responsibility in this. Barnard Castle is a unique market town with its own look and feel, which I believe visitors will continue to enjoy the town and the shops and attractions there.

“I know there is a convenience to these places and the public do like more places to go but some thing has to give.

“Retail competition is not necessarily a reason to turn down a plan but the implications of allowing out-of-town retail parks can have a detrimental effect on the high street.”

Keith Potter, manager at Maxwells in Galgate, which celebrated its 25th anniversary in the town last year, said: “It’s obviously going to hit our business hard. We try to go for quality and they go for price.

“We have been hit by car parking charges, the internet and now this is in the offing.”

Pamela Wilson, who runs Wilson’s on Market Place with her husband David, said: “It (Home Bargains) may bring people into town, those who won’t have done before.

“We do have a lot of loyal customers that we are grateful for who will continue to use us. If it comes, it comes and we just have to get on with it. Some of the businesses she mentions I’m not sure how it will affect them.”

Pauline Connolly, who is the third generation of her family to run the family business, Connolly’s Toyshop, in the Bank, said: “There is enough competition already from the internet.

“There is a lot of loyalty from my customers.

“This is something that always goes on – supermarkets are always pushing out into other markets.”

Alan Jenkins, who has run the Decor Carpet Centre in Galgate for 32 years, said: “I don’t think I will be directly affected, but I feel that Boyes and Maxwells, who have offered such a brilliant service to the town over the years, could be affected by the extra competition as well as some of the smaller, independent shops who make Barnard Castle’s high street.”

County councillor Richard Bell said he is also worried about the impact of a Home Bargains store.

He added: “I have pressed Durham County Council to ensure that the retail planning assessments submitted by the developers are separate for Home Bargains and Lidl, and they are employing a specialist planning consultant to review them.

“The deadline for objections is March 7 and I would encourage people with concerns to make them known to the council now.”

Dan Bramwell, from developer Consolidated Development Projects Ltd, said: “I am extremely disappointed that the MP has objected to this planning application which received overwhelming support at the public consultation. The MP was offered a briefing in late November and I shall be contacting her in due course.

“Consumer choice is extremely important in the shopping market.”