New Preston Aldi store is being put 'at risk' in row over road access, retailer claims

Aldi has claimed that Lancashire County Council is jeopardising plans for a new store in suburban Preston by failing to agree a price for the sale of a small plot of land needed to provide access to the development.
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The discount retailer has blamed the authority for the delay in delivering its long-planned branch on the site of the former Cottam Brickworks, off Tom Benson Way – and says that potential customers are clamouring to know when the outlet will be built.

However, County Hall has rubbished the criticism and says that it simply wants to ensure taxpayers are not left footing the bill for an associated redesign of the entrance to its household waste recycling centre nearby.

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How the new Aldi store and district centre in Cottam will look - when it is eventually built  (image: The Harris Partnership/BXB Cottam Properties Ltd./Nexus Planning)How the new Aldi store and district centre in Cottam will look - when it is eventually built  (image: The Harris Partnership/BXB Cottam Properties Ltd./Nexus Planning)
How the new Aldi store and district centre in Cottam will look - when it is eventually built (image: The Harris Partnership/BXB Cottam Properties Ltd./Nexus Planning)
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Planning permission for the supermarket – part of a wider scheme which will also include a new district centre and 89 new homes – was granted by Preston City Council 18 months ago. But BXB Cottam Properties Limited – the firm behind the overarching development – brought the proposal back before the authority’s planning committee a year later to seek an exemption from requested contributions to school places and affordable housing.

It said that those commitments, when combined with the minimum £510,000 cost of the recycling centre works, would render the project unviable. Councillors agreed and once again gave the plans the go-ahead.

The committee heard that after delays already caused by discussions over the access point, work on the scheme was finally due to begin this year.

However, Aldi has told the Post that its negotiations with Lancashire County Council – over a strip of land that the authority jointly owns with the government agency Homes England – have now “stalled”.

The roundabout at the junction of Tom Benson Way and Cottam Way, from which the new Aldi store and district centre in Cottam will be accessedThe roundabout at the junction of Tom Benson Way and Cottam Way, from which the new Aldi store and district centre in Cottam will be accessed
The roundabout at the junction of Tom Benson Way and Cottam Way, from which the new Aldi store and district centre in Cottam will be accessed
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The retailer says that the situation is putting the project at risk and has claimed that County Hall has failed to engage properly and “provide clarity” over the value of the plot in question.

The supermarket chain – which already has four branches in Preston and recently began work on a fifth at the city’s docklands – stressed that it remains committed to the Cottam store, but has been left frustrated by being unable to get under way with it

An Aldi spokesperson said; “Local residents have told us they want a new Aldi supermarket in Cottam, particularly as the cost of living crisis worsens.

“The city council originally approved plans back in March 2021 and we are still waiting to get shovels in the ground, but this access issue with the county council must be resolved before we can progress the store.

County Cllr Aidy Riggott has dismissed claims that Lancashire County Council is holding up the construction of the new Aldi and Cottam district centreCounty Cllr Aidy Riggott has dismissed claims that Lancashire County Council is holding up the construction of the new Aldi and Cottam district centre
County Cllr Aidy Riggott has dismissed claims that Lancashire County Council is holding up the construction of the new Aldi and Cottam district centre
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“Not only will a new Aldi help to make healthy affordable food more accessible to local people, our plans will also deliver up to 40 new jobs and millions of pounds worth of investment to the area, but we need to secure the small piece of [county] council-owned land before we can get started.

“After months and months of delays, it is time for the county council to listen to the community, get around the table and help us find a solution. A new store brings benefits for everyone, and in the current climate the county council cannot justify holding this up any longer.”

The Post understands that the estimated bill for altering the entrance to the recycling centre has now risen to £550,000 – excluding the cost of purchasing the necessary land.

The work would involve reconfiguring the access from the Tom Benson Way roundabout, wuth the route widening within the site to accommodate a dedicated right-hand turn lane to ensure that there is sufficient queuing capacity for vehicles heading to the waste recycling centre. Two lanes are to be provided for traffic leaving the district centre and waste facility and heading back out onto the road network.

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The money for the changes would be paid by the developers as part of a so-called “section 278” agreement, under which they would hand over a total of £650,000 for all of the highways works required as part of the scheme – which also include installing a toucan crossing on Tom Benson Way and traffic calming measures on Cottam Avenue to discourage rat-running through the new development.

Lancashire County Council, which operates the recycling centre – and, as the highways authority, would have to approve the details of any road alterations – strongly refuted Aldi’s claim that it was holding up the delivery of the new store.

County Cllr Aidy Riggott, cabinet member for economic development and growth, told the Post that the authority was “not delaying anything”.

“This is about the developer expecting Lancashire’s residents to stump up the cost of work that is needed as part of this scheme.

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“We’ve been really clear that it’s the developer that needs to pay for this work, not the taxpayer.

“We know that people in Cottam want this supermarket – so do we.

“As has always been the case, our door is open and we will discuss this with the developer at any time,” added County Cllr Riggott, who, the LDRS understands, has previously met representatives of the scheme on the site itself.

Preston City Council’s cabinet member for planning and regulation, David Borrow, said at the planning committee meeting where the development was approved earlier this year, that the decision would bring to an end the “10-year saga” over the future of the brickworks.

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Responding to the continued delay, a spokesperson for Preston City Council said that the authority hoped to see the scheme “delivered at the earliest opportunity”.

“In order to bring forward the development, the developer is negotiating with neighbouring land owners to secure access to the site from Tom Benson Way,” the spokesperson added.

‘WHY ARE WE WAITING’?

Cottam lies at the heart of the North West Preston Masterplan area, where around 5,500 properties are due to be built in the two decades up to the mid-2030s.

Kevin Thomas, a Cottam resident who moved to the district 20 years ago – long before the blueprint for its future expansion was agreed – said that even back then, promises were being made about the provision of local amenities.

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He is one of several residents whom Aldi say they have been contacted by to ask when the new store will finally spring up on the brickworks site.

“When we moved here, the county and local councils all promised shops, doctors and schools would be built,” Mr. Thomas said.

“Our largest shops are miles away and with the cost of fuel and [the issue of] pollution, local shops that can be accessed easily and by foot would be a great help.

“We cannot understand [why], if businesses such as Aldi are happy to commit and build us a store on the brickworks, it has now been delayed by Lancashire County Council. It is just unbelievable that these plans are being thwarted.

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“Everyone must work together to give local residents of Cottam what they have been waiting for many years – local shops such as Aldi,” he added.

The Aldi element of the Cottam Brickworks scheme received full planning permission from Preston City Council back in March, while outline approval was granted for the other commercial and housing aspects of the development.

The remaining “flexible” district centre space – totalling more than 11,000 square metres – could be filled by shops, eateries, offices or community facilities, such as a clinic or nursery. That element of the site – along with the residential properties – will be subject to a more detailed “reserved matters” application at a later date.

COUNTING THE COST

Lancashire County Council had requested a £676,000 contribution to the cost of creating 34 new primary school places as a result of the housing element of the Cottam Brickworks scheme, while Preston City Council would usually demand that 30 percent of new dwellings on urban estates were classed as affordable housing.

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Neither of those two criteria will be fulfilled after the council’s own viability assessor agreed with a submission from the applicant, BXB Cottam Properties Limited, which claimed that the cost of extensive land remediation – required as a result of the previous use of the site – and highway works at the Tom Benson Way entrance to the development would render the scheme unviable if coupled with education and affordable housing commitments.

Papers presented to city council planning committee members in March noted that all of the 114 properties being built elsewhere on the wider site are a mix of affordable rented and shared equity homes.

Planning and regulation cabinet member David Borrow said that the authority was therefore “over-delivering” on its affordable housing quota across the site as a whole.

As part of a previous planning permission, the applicant was also judged to have created the equivalent of 180 affordable dwellings by providing 0.6 hectares of land on the former brickworks site to build the 45-bed Lady Elsie Finney House care home back in 2007.

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The firm will still provide just over £1m in community infrastructure levy payments to the city authority and around £250,000 of other financial contributions – in what is known as a “section 106” planning agreement – as part of the latest, currently delayed phase of the development.

IN NUMBERS

40 – approximate number of jobs to be created at new Cottam Aldi store

170 – estimated number of full-time jobs to be created across the entire brickworks site upon completion

£41.7m – predicted annual economic output from the scheme

£150,000 – approximate amount of additional council tax revenue to be generated by the housing element of the project

Source: BXB Cottam Properties Limited