By Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporter
Plans for a new Lidl store in Erith have been rejected by Bexley council’s planning committee for a second time.
Despite multiple councillors agreeing that a supermarket would benefit residents, they agreed that policies “protecting” the industrial area couldn’t be overruled.
It is the second time Lidl’s plans for the Atlas Trade Park have been dumped, after its first attempt in April 2019 was rejected for similar reasons.
Council officers told members before the debate that both London and Bexley-wide policies had the land “safeguarded for commercial uses”.
Officers added that the London Plan, which designates where thousands of homes and businesses will be built in the city over the coming decades, had designed Bexley as a “retained borough”.
This means all land currently designated for industrial use in the borough must stay that way – meaning Lidl’s application, which would see the site have a retail use including selling food, had to be refused.
Ahead of debate, councillors were addressed by an applicant representing Lidl, who said the development “wouldn’t be a detrimental loss of employment land,” with 40 jobs predicted for the supermarket.
She added it was in an area that had a “long-standing use for retail,” and would add another much-needed supermarket option for Erith residents.
Cllr Joe Ferreira said messages from constituents on the proposal had been mixed – “50-50 or even 60-40 in favour” he said.
He added: “It’s disappointing the scheme doesn’t propose any other social infrastructure or housing on the site, but a concern of mine and some residents is that if this is refused and the current stores close, the site could become an eyesore.”
He added he was open to committee approving it, but said they would be overlooking land policies in the process – finishing with “we have policies for a reason”.
Cllr John Davey said he was concerned that approving the Lidl could further draw customers away from Erith town centre, which he said “has been on the edge of being viable for decades”.
However, he said a supermarket at the site would be an “ideal spot for residents”.
Cllr Val Clark said the council could not “pick and choose the rules we wish to obey and the rules we wish to ignore. We don’t actually have the luxury of doing as we please”.
It was a point echoed by Cllr Brian Bishop. Tapping his hand on the desk to emphasise his point, Cllr Bishop said: “For me it’s location, location, location”.
“This is land designated for industrial employment. We know what’s going to happen (if Lidl appeal a rejection). This is not land on which you’d be granted permission to build a supermarket.
“For me, the situation quite clear – yes we do need this supermarket in the borough.
“Officers said they’re trying to find a suitable location, and there will be a suitable location somewhere – but it is not in this location.
“I don’t think there’s any room for us to manoeuvre, I’ll leave it to the rest of the councillors.”
It was a point the majority of councillors agreed with, with Lidl’s plans for the site subsequently rejected again.
Top, an artist’s impression of what the new Lidl could have looked like