Discount supermarket chain Aldi has suffered a setback as officials have urged councillors to reject plans for a new store next to the A27 Brighton bypass.
The discounter wants to demolish the remaining buildings at Court Farm House, Hove, at the top of King George VI Avenue, known locally as Snakey Hill, and build a new store there.
The shop would have parking for 120 cars and floorspace totalling 1,895 square metres – similar to the Lidl at the Goldstone Retail Park, in Old Shoreham Road, Hove.
Officials have recommended that councillors refuse planning permission when the application goes before members of Brighton and Hove City Council next week.
The council’s Planning Committee previously turned down plans for a care home on the site but the application was granted on appeal.
Aldi said that it was looking for a fourth location locally, with shops in London Road, the Pavilion Centre, in Lewes Road and Carlton Terrace, Portslade, all trading well.
The company said: “The site at Court Farm House is ideally placed to serve the existing and future population in the Withdean area to the north of Hove.
“In turn, this will help to alleviate some of the pressure placed on the existing stores.
“To be clear, it is not the intention to close these, and the proposals are therefore to increase Aldi’s investment in Brighton and Hove.”
A report to the Planning Committee said that Aldi carried out a pre-application consultation with the council in 2020 when officials advised the retailer that its plans were “unlikely to be supported in principle”.
Transport assessments were described as “not robust, with insufficient information about travel forecasts and the impact on the road network”.
A lack of cycling and walking links to the surrounding areas were also criticised.
The report said: “The proposals do not successfully integrate with the verdant landscape character of the wider locality or that proposed for the adjacent Toad’s Hole Valley site.
“The proposals are not a landscape-led design or exemplary in terms of sustainability. The proposals are dominated by built form and hardstanding and do not incorporate sufficient on-site soft landscaping or screening.”
There were also no details about the impact on the site’s biodiversity, particularly on hazel dormice and reptiles in the area.
And although Snakey Hill has mostly been quieter since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the council’s transport team said that it was “usually a busy and difficult road to cross”.
The report also said that bus services were “not frequent or close enough” to the development site.
Brighton and Hove Bus Company’s commercial director Nick Hill backed this comment in a letter stating that the most frequent service, the 27, was an eight-minute walk away.
If councillors were to approve the planning application, Mr Hill called for a financial contribution from Aldi.
This would fund more frequent buses on the closest service, the 21, from hourly to every 20 or 30 minutes, and timetable displays and shelters at local bus stops.
Sixty objections and two letters of support for the project have been sent to the council.
Conservative councillors Vanessa Brown and Samer Bagaeen, who represent Hove Park ward, objected to the plans along with the Goldstone Valley Residents’ Association, Hove Civic Society, the Regency Society, Brighton Swifts Group and Cycling UK.
In a joint letter, Councillors Brown and Bagaeen said: “Our main concern is the extra traffic this will bring to an already heavily congested area.
“It is right on the roundabout at the top of King George VI Avenue where there are already long tailbacks at busy times.
“There are plans for a right-hand filter lane in the middle of King George VI Avenue, but we would argue that the entrance is too near the roundabout and the road is too narrow for this.”
Hove Civic Society raised concerns about the scheme’s effect on housing planned for the neighbouring Toads Hole Valley site.
The society said: “This proposed development is basically the wrong type of development in the wrong place.
“It seriously compromises a strategic planning objective for a large and important area (Toads Hole Valley) as identified in the City Plan.
“It flies in the face of planning objectives for sustainable development in the city more widely.”
A resident, whose details were redacted on the council’s website, said: “I believe that if this application is granted, even with provisos, it would go down in history as one of the biggest and costliest blunders ever made by the committee, and the council taxpayers will no doubt have to pick up the cost.”
A supporting comment, with personal details also redacted by the council, said: “Although there are several supermarkets in the area, there are quite a number of residents near by who do not have a supermarket within an easy walk or cycle ride.
“I would urge the committee to give planning permission and impose conditions to ensure that pedestrian and cycle access is prioritised, for example, a controlled crossing of King George VI Avenue, and a requirement for both Aldi and the developer of Toads Hole Valley to provide pedestrian permeability between their sites.”
The council’s Planning Committee is due to meet at Hove Town Hall at 2pm next Wednesday (2 February). The meeting is scheduled to be webcast on the council’s website.
LIKE WHAT WE DO? HELP US TO DO MORE OF IT BY DONATING HERE.