Deadlock over Aldi store bid

The now boarded up Booths site on Highfield Road and (below) Coun Jason Roberts
The now boarded up Booths site on Highfield Road and (below) Coun Jason Roberts

Moves to open a new supermarket in Blackpool have reached a stalemate with planners and developers locked in opposition over where a new Aldi should be built.

The discount chain wants to open its third store in the resort on a site off Squires Gate Lane - but town hall planners insist the company should take over the now boarded up former Booths store on Highfield Road, South Shore, instead.

Coun Jason Roberts

Coun Jason Roberts

After delaying a decision last time round, the application is due back before Blackpool’s planning committee today with councillors recommended to refuse the application.

In a letter to the council, Aldi says the Booths site does not meet its needs.

Philip Isherwood, property director for Aldi, said: “Aldi has already considered the Highfield Road site and concluded that it was not suitable.”

He says the layout of the building is unworkable, and adds: “Furthermore, Aldi consider that the site is a poor location for food retailing generally, which is likely to be the reason the Booths store is closing.”

Aldi has already considered the Highfield Road site and concluded that it was not suitable

Mr Isherwood says Highfield Road “is not a busy route, meaning the store would not attract any significant level of passer-by trade”, and adds another obstacle is the cost of the site.

Councillors asked the applicant, LS Retail Warehousing Ltd on behalf of Aldi, to consider the Booths site because they say it is more closely linked to existing shopping areas and has better public transport links.

They argue a discount food store on Highfield Road “would serve the south eastern part of the town which is scheduled to expand by some 650 houses through the development of sites on Moss House Road and Midgeland Road.”

Concerns have also been raised about the loss of potential employment land on the industrial estate, which will be part of a new Blackpool Airport enterprise zone being set up from January.

If it goes ahead the new Aldi will create 40 jobs.

Coun Jason Roberts, who represents Stanley ward which includes the Booths site, said it was vital something happened quickly there.

He said: “The fact Aldi is thinking of coming into the ward, whichever site goes ahead, is good as it will bring in jobs.

“But residents are concerned about the former Booths site which has been a focal point for many years in this area.

“We don’t want it sat there dormant for a long time. We want to see it put to use as soon as possible and people are asking a lot of questions about it.”

Hugh Evans, deputy chief executive at North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, said while he welcomed the potential investment from Aldi, the Squires Gate site should be retained for other business use as part of the new Enterprise Zone.

He said: “While we welcome Aldi’s commitment to invest and create jobs in Blackpool, locating their store in the new Enterprise Zone would be the wrong decision.

“Retail is an important sector for Blackpool but we can’t escape the fact that the town needs to diversify its business make-up by attracting new industry sectors. The Enterprise Zone is an ideal opportunity to do just that.”

Booths closed its store in Highfield Road on August 21 to make way for a new one due to open tomorrow in St Annes.

Aldi already has a store in Waterloo Road, Blackpool, and is currently building a second store at Oxford Square.

There is already planning permission in place, granted by Fylde Council, for another discount food store on the site of the now demolished Westgate House, also on Squires Gate Lane.