Aldi’s controversial application to build on the former Dairy Crest site in Epsom was unanimously rejected by the council’s planning committee last night.
The supermarket giant had owned the Alexandra Road site since 2013 and hoped to build a new store and six flats there.
But Epsom and Ewell Borough Council’s planning officers recommended that the application be refused.
Officers argued the Upper High Street site – which Lidl informally announced plans for in February – was a more suitable site for a food store, that there were not enough car parking spaces or affordable housing and that tenants of the new flats would not have sufficient amenity space.
Aldi disputed all these claims, and said the new store would create local jobs and give supermarket shoppers in Epsom more choice.
All 12 members of the council’s planning committee voted to reject it on Thursday, March 7.
Julie Morris, a resident of nearby Mill Road and leader of the ‘Stop Aldi’ campaign, spoke at last night’s meeting, drawing applause from a dozen or so residents seated in the public gallery.
She said: “The five-way junction is hazardous already and will not take the kind of traffic and congestion associated with a low-price food store.
“There is a suitable site for a food store 200 yards away up the road in Upper High Street, and small traders there are desperate for an anchor store to make their local stores thrive.
“The majority of objectors would welcome Aldi or any supermarket on the Upper High Street site (pictured below), but this is just the right store in the wrong place.”
A representative from Aldi told the planning committee: “The scheme will not harm the adjacent conservation area or harm the local character of the area.
“It will create 50 new jobs and enhance local food shopping choices and market demand by the large supermarkets.”
Councillors argued against the application for two hours before finally refusing it unanimously.
Conservative councillor Tina Mountain questioned the need for more supermarkets in the north side of the town.
She said: “We do have six supermarkets within walking distance of this area.
“Do we need a seventh when we are so desperately in need of homes?”
She also worried about the effect the influx of shoppers would have on the local road network.
Between November 1, 2009 and October 31, 2014 there were 24 recorded accidents at junctions in the immediate vicinity - two of which were serious.
Cllr Mountain said: “It is just an accident waiting to happen.
“We could say, if we were minded to pass it, that is not Aldi’s problem to solve, but by creating this supermarket on this spot it will exacerbate what is already a very hazardous, dangerous area.”
Hoping that @AldiUK will seriously rethink it's plans for a store in Epsom at inappropriate Dairy site & seek a location in the town centre— Tony Axelrod (@tonyepsom) 8 April 2016
Residents’ Association (RA) Councillor Clive Smitheram was concerned that tenants in the six new flats – of which two would be deemed “affordable housing” – could be cut off from local amenities, especially if the store created more traffic and congestion on the surrounding roads.
He said: “It is really important that if we give people housing we must give them space to relax in. Otherwise they would be locked in.”
Councillor George Wood said: “In all my years on the planning committee I fail to recall a time when the planning officers have so definitively recommended refusal.”