A Leyland resident outraged by illuminated signs planned for a new Aldi store in the town says she was “left waiting for a meeting that was never going to happen” – at which she thought she would have the opportunity to put her concerns directly to the firm.
Ruth Sinclair was one of several locals who told South Ribble Borough Council’s planning committee last month that the five lit-up logos outside the School Lane store – including one fixed to six-metre-high totem – would blight their lives.
Councillors deferred their decision and requested that the retailer “get round the table” with its soon-to-be neighbours to come up with a plan which was acceptable to those living nearby.
But when the proposal came back before the committee last week, members were told that Aldi had declined to enter into further discussions with residents who were concerned, in particular, about the positioning of the totem at the junction of School Lane and Golden Hill Lane.
Instead, the supermarket chain agreed to switch off the signs within half an hour of the store closing at 10pm and the application was approved.
But Ruth says the first she knew about the decision was when she read about it in the Lancashire Post – and that she and others had been waiting for what they thought was a promised meeting with Aldi.
As a result, none of the residents turned up at the latest committee meeting to put their case for a final time.
“I feel cheated and let down by those very people who are supposed to represent me and allow me to have a fair hearing,” Ruth said.
“As Aldi were not prepared to meet, the planning committee should have rejected the proposal. Nobody let me know and so, in good faith, I was waiting for a meeting that clearly was never going to happen.”
Jonathan Noad, South Ribble Borough Council’s director of planning said: “The planning applications submitted by Aldi have gone through the full due process and throughout the period the council has been in dialogue with the applicant and those who have objected to the proposals, meeting and exceeding its statutory requirements for consultation.
“Further engagement by the applicant with residents would have been at their own discretion.”
Papers presented to the committee state that Aldi would be “happy to meet residents again, but felt there was little to gain”.
The company had opted for that location after a meeting at which objections were raised to a previous plan for the totem to be erected on School Lane itself.
Committee member Mary Green, who initially suggested a restriction on the length of time the signage could be lit, said it was a “compromise” solution.
“At least residents won’t have the lights shining into their bedrooms at night – it’s the best we are going to get,” Cllr Green said.
But Cllr James Flannery rapped the retailer for not doing as it was asked last month.
“When we say an item is to be deferred to enable an applicant to have further dialogue with the residents, we would expect them to have further dialogue with the residents,” he said.
Aldi was approached for comment.