DISCOUNT retailer Aldi looks set to lose its second bid for a supermarket on the outskirts of New Milton because planners say a town-centre location would be a better fit.
The German grocery chain resubmitted plans to build a store on a site known as Solent Industrial Estate on Caird Avenue – a short distance from the town’s Tesco superstore.
A previous application for the same site was narrowly rejected by New Forest District Council’s planning committee in May 2020 after its members were told an empty former Co-op store on Station Road would be a better location for the new supermarket.
However, the town centre site, which is owned by Bradbeers department store, has been branded unsuitable by the German retailer because it lacks suitable parking.
Now New Forest District Council’s planning committee is set to consider a revised bid for the Caird Avenue site, along with a recommendation from planning officers that the scheme be rejected for a second time.
In a report to the planning committee, which will meet virtually next Wednesday, planning officer Vivienne Baxter said officers were still unconvinced the vacated town centre Co-op site was unsuitable or unavailable as an alternative.
The report concluded the adjacent HSBC building at 87 Station Road was likely to become available in the next 12 months and this – combined with the Co-op building – would be adequate to accommodate the supermarket in a town centre location.
However, planning documents revealed the council’s own retail assessment demonstrated that Morrisons and smaller town-centre convenience stores would continue to be viable if the Caird Avenue plans were approved.
Also standing in the way of Aldi’s plans is the fact the Caird Avenue site has been allocated for employment use – not retail – as part of NFDC’s Local Plan, the keystone document for development in the district up to 2036.
This means the application must satisfy a “sequential test” and show Caird Avenue is the most suitable spot for the area’s needs.
New Milton Town Council recommended the plans be approved, and New Milton Residents Association also wrote in support, stating that 65% of its members backed the scheme compared with 29% who were opposed.
The application received 61 responses from the public with 50 of those writing in favour of permission, and 11 against.
Concerns included traffic problems in Caird Avenue, the impact on New Milton town centre, the litter generated and a lack of environmentally sustainable features.
Those in favour argued the proposal would create new jobs, benefit those living nearby, add competition, reduce food prices and benefit lower income families from Lymington who had limited access to discount supermarkets.
The planning report acknowledges that the previous reasons for refusal including the retail impact, design and materials, and contamination and landscaping concerns had now been overcome. It will be debated on Wednesday by NFDC’s planning committee, which will be livestreamed on NFDC’s YouTube channel.