In January I held a poll on my Facebook Page that said by 65% to 35% that local people want me to support the development of a proposed Lidl on Battens Drive. I am always keen to see democracy respected, even in this case where I personally remain unconvinced about the merits of the application.
Before we get started I will just add that the proposed development sits in Winyates, but borders right up against Church Hill, and will affect Church Hill residents and businesses, which is why I have taken such a keen interest in the issue.
In supporting this application I will be raising my concerns and the concerns raised by residents along the way. Here’s a list I have been working on. If you have anything to add please send me a message via my Facebook Page or leave a comment below and I’ll update this post.
I intend to address the Planning Committee on this issue when they meet to decide the application. I will tell them the outcome of the poll, but I will ask them to consider placing ‘conditions’ on the application to address these concerns. This would mean that Lidl has to address the ‘conditions’ before they can proceed. Some of the concerns raised should be addressed before the store is built, but some can be dealt with along the way.
Traffic congestion along Battens Drive remains a concern with the risk of increased traffic especially on a Saturday or a Sunday, restricting access to the Arrow Valley Country Park. The filtering zone immediately outside the entrance road is not big enough to accommodate the volume of traffic that will be waiting to turn right from the Coventry Highway. Please consider moving the store entrance so that cars access the site directly off the roundabout instead, or consider funding junction improvements to ease traffic flow and congestion.
A resident comments:
We are concerned about the volume of traffic on Battens Drive when it is already challenging trying to exit Hopyard Lane during rush hour and school finishing times. The road is heavily congested at around 5pm, queuing the full length of Battens Drive. With traffic turning in and out of the new store I do feel it will create more congestion.
This is typical of the responses given so far, the majority of which are objections.
Padgets Lane Impact
Industrial traffic using Padgets Lane will be affected in light of the above, especially if they are turning right to access the Coventry Highway. Here is what one business has to say:
I am the Site Leader for DS Smith, a site employing 53 permanent employees on Padgets Lane (South Moons Moat). We operate 6am to 10pm Monday to Friday with cars, delivery vans and HGVs entering and exiting at various times during those hours. The sole entrance / exit point to Padgets Lane for the industrial estate is opposite the proposed new store, staggered slightly from the proposed store entrance. My comments reflect my personal opinions but represent concerns in relation to all vehicle traffic, upon which a number of my colleagues have already expressed their concerns to me.
I have looked through the associated documentation submitted for the planning application and I specifically have reviewed the Transport Assessment. I strongly disagree with the assertion in item 2.17 “The above results therefore suggest that there is no inherent road safety issue present on the local adopted highway adjacent to the application site which the proposed development would exacerbate.”
The traffic surveys confirm that Battens Drive is a busy road especially at peak times, and all our employees and HGV drivers will testify that it can be difficult exiting the estate at those times. However, currently there is little clash between working traffic and the leisure users of the Arrow Valley Park / Leisure centre. This will clearly not be the case with the retail store which will add significantly to the peak-time traffic.
The existing junctions between Padgets Lane and Battens Drive, and the proposed shared store / Arrow Valley park entrance and Battens Drive have abutting sets of filter lanes. There is an existing concern with drivers misusing the filter lanes by attempting to overtake or by entering the filter too early. Some of the traffic incidents would reflect that concern but there must be many more near misses. There was a serious incident earlier this year when the road was closed by the Arrow Valley entrance earlier this year which has not been included in the statistics in the study.
I also refer to the plan on page 167 of the Transport Assessment (appendix 3.b). I find this disingenuous in so far as the HGV traffic into the store entrance is only shown turning left (northbound) and the exiting HGV traffic is only shown turning left also going northbound. Is this a guarantee that all HGV traffic will only attempt to execute left turns in and out of the store entrance on Battens Drive? Even so the left turn out of the site shows that HGVs will have to swing out across the carriageway.
Because there is a short gap between the road junctions, vehicles turning right out of the store to go southbound on Battens Drive will be attempting to get out into any short break in the southbound flow but will not necessarily see vehicles who are exiting left from Padgets Lane, similarly it will be much harder to turn right out Padgets Lane going northbound when traffic exits the store entrance to the left.
I must say that I am extremely surprised that there are no traffic lights or other traffic controls proposed in the plan. I feel that without them traffic safety and reasonable vehicle flow is liable to be compromised.
The views of this business must be considered, so I will ask if traffic lights or other controls can be placed as a condition on planning permission. I will note that the above business does not object or support the application – they are remaining neutral on the matter.
Impact on Town Centre
The impact of the store on Redditch Town Centre could be high. Here is what representatives of the Kingfisher Centre have to say:
The provision of convenience and unrestricted comparison floorspace in this out-of-centre location (on protected open land) can, in no way, be positive for the vitality and viability of Redditch Town Centre, which, in accordance with the recently adopted Local Plan and National Planning Policy Framework, should be the focus of all retail floorspace.
They continue with a dire warning:
Through the correct application of national and retail planning policy, any new retail provision within the Borough should be directed to the town centre first. Pursuing opportunities to accommodate retailers such as Lidl within the existing retail core is the only way to allow Redditch to maintain its position as a retail centre and to ensure its vitality and viability, given the success and dominance of out of town retailing at other supermarkets, particularly Tesco, Sainsburys and Morrisons.
The increase in comparison goods, the nature of goods that will be sold from the proposed Lidl (i.e. clothing, electrical and homewares), as well as convenience floorspace that can be provided within the town centre, will only provide further unwelcome competition for the Kingfisher Shopping Centre and provide customers with less reason to visit the town centre. This will impact on KLP’s ability to retain and attract new retailers.
Therefore, if local people wish me to support this application I believe we need to see an economic damage assessment to understand what modelling can be done to evidence the claims made here, and what mitigations can be put in place.
I have to add at this stage, the concerns of the Kingfisher Centre are astute and I am surprised they don’t chime more with local residents. Lidl sells all sorts of things that will take business from many shops in the town, not just groceries.
The Kingfisher has also completed a study to show where else in the town centre a new Lidl could go. Imagine all the benefits this could bring to our town centre. You can see all the sites they have offered by clicking this link to read their report. Some samples are in the gallery below:
Impact on Arrow Valley Country Park
Though it will be nice for people to buy food and drink from Lidl and take it into the park for a picnic, we don’t have the rubbish bin capacity to cope with the extra litter. That’s even if people bother to put the litter into the bins. Therefore, I would want to see Lidl pay for some upgrades to increase capacity and I want them to also send their staff out to do litter picks like McDonalds does.
I am also concerned about congestion around the entrance to the Arrow Valley Country Park, a major visitor destination in Redditch.
I am also concerned that Lidl will undermine the Arrow Valley Visitor Centre, which we have only just decided as a council to bring back into council hands and ask Rubicon to run it on our behalf. Fewer people buying ice creams from the Visitors Centre will have a severe impact on the viability of that centre.
Impact on Church Hill Centre
As Lidl sells lots of things, there is a risk that business can be drawn away from the Church Hill Centre offerings to Lidl. I welcome competition, but there is no way the stores in Church Hill Centre can compete with Lidl directly.
Impact on Open Space and Leisure
The location is right onto the Arrow Valley Country Park. That building was once a nightclub and then more recently a gym. This is all compatible with a leisure offer that encourages people to get out of their homes and get active. The placement of a supermarket at this location undermines the offer.
This is how a Miss Helen Jennings puts it, and I see her point:
It would be nice to see ten pin bowling back in the town rather than a duplication of a supermarket we already have, in close vicinity to another supermarket. The chosen development location is suitable for leisure facilities and should be kept that way for local public well being and tourism.
Mr Adrian Lowe adds:
I would of prefer the lake side to be utilised in a better capacity such as a proper leisure centre with lake side integration and water sports or a restaurant to bring my tourism to the beautiful surroundingd however I guess it suits me to be able to walk over and getting shopping. Im just concern the lake will now be a dumping ground for trollies – not sure what you can do to prevent that.
In response to this I will ask what conditions can be placed to ensure trolleys do not end up dumped in the Arrow Valley Country Park.
Impact on Jobs
There is a Lidl just up the road next to Dunelm. What will happen to this store and the staff that work there? Will the transfer over?