PLANS: Proposals have been lodged for a new Lidl store
PLANS: Proposals have been lodged for a new Lidl store

BARNARD Castle Town Council has admitted getting it wrong after accusing a supermarket developer of not doing enough research into its impact on the high street.

Members of Barnard Castle Town Council last week agreed that they could not make a comment on the Lidl and Home Bargains development until Consolidated Development Projects Ltd provided more evidence.

It was claimed by the town mayor, Cllr Sandra Moorhouse, that the company would be open to a legal challenge unless it provided more details of how the site would impact local shops.

Consolidated Development Projects Ltd was also asked to show evidence that it has properly considered sites nearer the town centre.

The development, at the former Addisons Auction Room off the A688, was the subject of a special meeting held by the town council on Monday, March 4. Cllr Moorhouse told the meeting: “We need to know if consideration was given to other sites in the town boundary.

“There should also be a retail impact statement and they say one is being done but there is no evidence of that.

“It’s clearly important to us. We have got a really strong community feel about supporting the town centre. We do not want to be reducing people’s choice but we do have to be really sure that the company looked into this”.

However, Dan Bramwell, from developer Consolidated Development Projects Ltd, told the Mercury that detailed reports had been supplied weeks ago – and these were available to see publicly on Durham County Council’s planning website.

The town council has since admitted that it was mistaken.

The reports by consultants CBRE, said Barnard Castle town centre remains viable with a vacancy rate below the national average. It concluded: “There is no demonstrable evidence of significant adverse impacts arising from the proposed scheme on Barnard Castle. Any impact arising from the scheme needs to be balanced against the sustainability and environmental benefits of providing new retail provision in the town to reverse current, predominantly car-borne, outward shopping trips to Bishop Auckland.”

Meanwhile, CBRE said potential sites for the development at the auction mart and at Smith Grove Works, both near the town centre, were unsuitable because delivery access was mainly through residential streets.

At the town council meeting, Cllr Judi Sutherland had suggested that a report into alternative sites may be unnecessary because there was simply nowhere else available.

Members heard that the auction mart, in Vere Road, had been discussed a decade ago but a possible retail scheme fell through.

Cllr Sutherland also said the narrow roads would not be suitable for supermarket deliveries. But Cllr Sutherland said she was also worried about Home Bargains taking business away from the shops selling homeware. But she added: “I go to Sainsbury’s and a lot of other people go out of town for their main shop so I think Lidl’s impact will be less than expected.”

Cllr Kelly Blissett said she shops in Home Bargains, in Bishop Auckland Retail Park, but still spends money in shops such as Boyes in Barnard Castle.

Meanwhile, councillors were concerned about the delivery areas being so close to people’s properties.

Cllr Sutherland said: “The loading bays are right against people’s homes and gardens. They will be reversing with a beep, beep noise all day.”

Proposals to restrict delivery times would not work in practice, councillors claimed.

However, Cllr Sutherland said despite the concerns many people wanted the development to go ahead.

She said: “There seems to be a lot of support from the community who say they want more choice. But I have a lot of sympathy for the people who will live up against it.”

The meeting heard that a small parcel of land to the south-west corner of the site would be “landlocked” by the development. Council clerk Michael King said Consolidated Development Projects Ltd had no plans for the area and councillors suggested it could be made into a wildlife haven or used to provide a new footpath into the retail site.

The matter was deferred until a meeting of full council on Monday, March 18. The stance of town councillors will be considered by Durham County Council which will make the final decision.