‘Will two Aldi stores in Leighton Buzzard be economically viable long term?’ questions LB First chairman

Aldi's existing store in Vimy Road
Aldi's existing store in Vimy Road

The chairman of independent traders’ group LB First has expressed concern about plans for Aldi to set up shop on Leighton Buzzard’s new retail park.

Aldi will take over Wickes’ position as an anchor tenant at the Grovebury Road site, subject to planning permission being secured.

Gennaro Borrelli

Gennaro Borrelli

Although Aldi intends to keep open what would be a smaller base in Vimy Road, LB First chairman Gennaro Borrelli said he had concerns about how long Aldi would keep two stores open, despite assurances from retail park developer Claymore Phoenix that both would remain.

He said: “The worry is that if Aldi do go there we don’t actually know how long they would keep the town centre store open for. Would it be economically viable long term?

“Also is this the start of a trend where we start to see the leaking of larger stores/chains from the town centre to the edge of town? This was always the nightmare scenario envisaged when planning consent was granted for both retail parks.

“The deliberate shifting of our main retail centre by stealth will endanger our historical town centre. This is why the land on the South Side of the High Street was earmarked for development, to include more retail and leisure, link in with the rest of the High Street providing more choice and entertainment, anchoring the footfall and supporting the rest of the town centre including the market.

“That’s why after extensive public consultations it was part of our last two town plans and most recent Central Beds draft development strategy.”

MrBorrelli saidCentral Beds Council had ignored the national planning policy framework which stated that a town centre first approach had to be taken where land has been identified.

He said: “Only when there is no land available then the local authority can work its way out to the edge of town, the reason being that it is deemed detrimental to traditional town centres and many studies have shown how much damage has been caused by edge of and out of town retail parks, retail parks which nobody actually asked for.

“This is why when planning consent was granted for this one there were restrictions for bulky goods only and was deemed small enough as well to have a minimal impact on the town centre.

“But because the precedent had been set, planning permission was given for a second retail park and because Cllr Nigel Young lifted the restrictions on the White Lion retail park in Dunstable to get M&S to go there (only to be blocked by Sainsbury’s ) it allowed Claymore to lift the restrictions on the Grovebury Road retail park and thus get M&S to go there instead and fill the other units, almost by default.

“We have mushrooming housing growth in our town and will see none of the benefits that people have been asking for, improved amenities and facilities, instead a slow death to our traditional town centre if things are allowed to carry on along this road. We need strong visionary leaders to create the right conditions for success.”

Central Beds Council has now received a formal planning application which, if approved, would pave the way for a 1,858sq metre Aldi foodstore as Wickes – which has stores nearby in Bletchley and Dunstable and had originally signed up for Grovebury Road – has agreed to step aside.

The retail park, due to open in January 2019, originally gained planning permission in November 2013, with a condition that the presence of “convenience food retail” in the warehouses was forbidden.

However, last year, with M&S keen to put a Foodhall on the site, Central Beds Council agreed to amend the Section 106 agreement to allow its presence.

> Developers give latest on retail park https://www.leightonbuzzardonline.co.uk/news/business/leighton-buzzard-retail-park-developer-confirms-aldi-will-take-over-from-wickes-if-planning-permission-is-secured-1-8675848