The discount retailer wants to move from its existing base on Westgate to a new location at the junction of Golden Hill Lane and School Lane.
South Ribble Borough Council’s planning committee deferred its decision on the proposal while the company is asked to rethink the external appearance of the premises.
“To see grey and white plastic in an area like that would be out of character,” committee member Barrie Yates said.
But councillors will also use the deferral period to ask highways officers at Lancashire County Council to re-examine their assessment of the potential impact of the new store on roads in the area. The effect of increased traffic was the focus of much of the committee’s deliberations, which lasted more than an hour.
County Hall’s highways bosses found that the development “would not have a significant impact on the operational performance of the local road network”.
However, ward councillor Matthew Tomlinson described that conclusion as “incredible” and fellow Broadfield representative Mick Titherington expressed concern about how a junction he described as “the busiest in Leyland” would cope.
“If you go there at any time of the day, you’ll see traffic backed right up,” Cllr Titherington said.
“If this goes ahead, the air quality situation is going to be exacerbated. We’re not opposed to development, but this is not the right development for the location.”
The store would lie on the edge of a zone which has previously exceeded recommended levels of nitrogen dioxide, but South Ribble’s environmental health officers have not raised any objections to the proposal.
Concern was also expressed within the committee about the potential difficulty of turning right out of the new store, which would have its entrance and exit on School Lane close to traffic lights.
Aldi’s property director, Stuart Parks, told the meeting that “in our view, the development will not have an impact on the local highways network” – but the statement was greeted with laughter from members of the public.
The meeting heard legal advice from the council’s monitoring officer that the authority would “struggle” to defend any appeal by Aldi if the planning committee refused the application on traffic grounds – because it ran contrary to the assessment made by Lancashire County Council.
Meanwhile, local shop owner David Brindle said the new store was unnecessary and threatened his own businesses directly opposite the proposed development.
“As Aldi is already present in the area, this store will not enhance the quality and choice available to shoppers,” said Mr. Brindle, whose family has run the Costcutter shop on School Lane for nearly 60 years.
But members were told by planning officer Debbie Roberts that commercial competition was not a planning consideration and that it “must not form part of the decision”.
“The potential for a new operator in the old store is likely to enhance the town centre and not be of detriment to it,” she added.
Aldi also rejected claims from Lidl and Morrisons – which operate in the area – that the new store would draw custom away from the existing town centre, against national planning guidance. Stuart Parks told the meeting that the car park at the current store – which opened in 2005 – could “no longer meet demand” and the company’s application stated that there were no suitable alternative sites in the vicinity.
But School Lane resident Benjamin Gibbons made a direct plea to the committee not to permit the proposal.
“I bought a house in an area I love and I won’t be able to look out of the window without seeing 120 parked cars. Would anybody else spend £125,000 for that?” he asked.
Stuart Parks told planning committee members that the firm “knows the importance of being a good neighbour” and has committed to making improvements to the entrance and parking facilities for the Stonehouse children’s nursery which will remain in its current location close to the entrance to the proposed new store.
A statement issued by Aldi when the £5m plan was unveiled last October said that 15 additional jobs would be created by the new outlet.
Responding to the decision to defer the planning application, a spokesperson for Aldi said: “We are reviewing our proposals and will continue to work closely with the council.”