Lidl plans for second supermarket next to Chelmsford bronze age settlement revealed

Details have been revealed of Lidl’s plans to open a second supermarket in Chelmsford – just yards from a Neolithic and Bronze Age enclosure.

Essex County Council is putting plans in place to sell land at Cuton Hall Lane, Springfield, to Lidl – conditional on Lidl achieving planning approval and permission to sell alcohol for a store of not less than 1,410sq m and 140 parking spaces.

Lidl has one other supermarket in Chelmsford – off Princes Road in Moulsham.

The plans come two years after the sale of the same piece of land to a care home developer fell through because of concerns around the impact it would have on open space and the effect that this would have on the character and appearance of the area.

Landspring Limited had appealed Chelmsford City Council’s decision to turn down a development for a 70-bed care home in Springfield Lyons, on a site that also boasts an Anglo Saxon grave.

Rare Bronze Age clay mould fragments used for making swords have been recovered from the nearby enclosure, which are currently housed in the British Museum.

Landspring’s plans, submitted to Chelmsford City Council on December 19, were rejected after it had a similar application turned down in November.

But Landspring then lodged an appeal which was heard by the Planning Inspectorate in March.

Planning inspector Jo Dowling agreed with residents over the loss of open space and the effect this would have on the character and appearance of the area and wildlife habitats.

The inspector said that while the circular enclosure is located within the application site, it would have been some considerable distance from the site of the proposed care home and would not have adversely affected the setting of the non-designated heritage asset.

She said: “There are a number of benefits that weigh in the favour of the scheme including the provision of a modern care home facility which would deliver additional bed spaces and the formalisation and securing of the red land as public open space.

“Moreover, I consider that the effect on great crested newts as a protected species would be neutral and the loss of wildlife habitat would be very limited.

However, she did believe the proposal would have been contrary to policies to maintain and enhance the provision of formal and informal recreation facilities, to protect and enhance existing public open spaces, and dismissed the appeal.

The land is owned by Essex County Council (ECC) and would have been sold subject to planning and land management agreements, which residents say does not satisfy their concerns.

The land was declared surplus to ECC requirements by the Personnel Sub-committee on 8 September 1994 and has not been identified as being suitable for use by other service commissioners within ECC.

A statement associated with a decision to allow the sale, subject to planning processes, said: “Although the currently proposed Lidl development for a supermarket of 1,410sq m plus associated parking would be set back further from the road but, given the extent of the on-site car parking proposed and that it covers a greater site area, it may be perceived as having a greater impact so the planning situation cannot be certain.

“A new vehicular access will be required into the proposed Lidl site. The offer from Lidl is subject to achieving planning consent without unduly onerous conditions.

“However, should ECC not take forward the offer from Lidl, the expectation is that the land will remain open space, with no foreseeable short to medium term prospect for development, and further consideration will need to be given to holding costs, obligations and liabilities.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter