Planners are set to ‘change the rules’ and allow a new discount store at a Bedford retail park.
A new Lidl store would take up about two thirds of the empty former Homebase store at the St John’s Centre, off Rope Walk.
The centre is designed for businesses selling ‘bulky items’ and Bedford Borough Council would not normally allow a food store.
But planning and development advisers Montague Evans have put forward such a convincing case on behalf of their clients, centre owner SREIT Bedford, that council officers say they have been won over.
Planning officer James Dawe, in his report to councillors, says: “Officers accept the findings of this assessment insofar as there are no existing available sites within the town centre or key services centres within the identified food store catchment area and that this edge of centre site could facilitate the proposed development.
“Officers also accept the findings that the discount model that Lidl adopts would not harm nearby existing food stores and would not compete with the town centre retail offer owing to the size and nature of the proposed store. The principle of development is therefore demonstrated.”
Mr Dawe is advising that councillors at Monday’s planning committee should grant permission when they meet at Borough Hall on Monday evening. The changes also include knocking down the building occupied by Mounter and Turners Carpets to expand the car park. The business plans to relocate.
Overall, they say there are benefits in bringing a large vacant building back into use and enable the continued occupation of the remainder of the building by bulky goods retailers.
“The proposal is not considered to have any adverse impacts upon the town centre or the retail park itself,” planners conclude. It would also lead to the creation of 40 new jobs.