Lidl claims support for store plans in Walsall

Supermarket chain Lidl has claimed its controversial plan to take over a Walsall hotel and bar site has been backed by the majority of residents.

The Metro Hotel and Broadway Bar in Birmingham Road, Walsall. PIC: Google
The Metro Hotel and Broadway Bar in Birmingham Road, Walsall. PIC: Google

Despite a public backlash when the proposal was announced, the company said 51 per cent of people who took part in a consultation exercise supported the principle of the development.

The supermarket giant has submitted a planning application to Walsall Council to demolish the Metro Inn and Broadway Bar on Birmingham Road and replace it with a large store which would create 40 new jobs.

But objectors said the store would create huge traffic issues on the already congested gateway into Walsall.

They also said the promise of new jobs was cancelled out by the loss of jobs at the hotel and bar.

Ward councillor Waheed Rasab said he has been inundated with calls from worried residents about the proposal and added he found it hard to believe people would support it.

In a ‘statement of community involvement’, Lidl said 877 people responded to their public consultation exercise with 438 – or 51 per cent – saying they supported the development in principle.

A total of 45 per cent (391) said they were against it, while four per cent (33 people) said they were uncertain.

Lidl said the vast majority of concerns raised by people submitting comments were about the impact the store would have on traffic congestion.

But the company said a transport assessment has been carried out which concludes there is no evidence of severe impact on traffic flow or highways safety.

Agents Whittam Cox Architects said: “The proposed scheme seeks to bring a new food store to Walsall, providing greater food store choice to local communities.

“This proposal will be constructed to a high quality with sensitivity to the local environment, employing contemporary and sustainable design and materials to create an attractive, high quality building which is appropriate to its surrounding built environment.

“The proposal utilises its locality to ensure good accessibility and promote sustainable transport methods.”

Councillor Rasab said: “I don’t believe that most people want it. Residents have contacted us saying they don’t want Lidl to be built there.

“People are constantly ringing me to tell me to make sure this doesn’t happen because they are so strongly against it.”

He, and ward colleagues Gurmeet Singh Sohal and Nick Gandham, said they would continue to oppose the plans.

He said: “You have huge issues with traffic and they are introducing Sprint and there has already been planning permission turned down on Cricket Close next to here.

“We don’t need this. We respect Lidl, they provide good quality stuff but we have (a store) just down the road. Why would you want another one here?”

Hotel manager Katie Mikusova said her team of 12 permanent members of staff only found out about the proposals when a leaflet was dropped off in reception.

She said: “I contacted head office and they were not aware of it. There was no contact other than that leaflet. So it was a bit of a shock.

“My first job was to calm the staff down and assure them nothing was happening as of yet.

“It directly affects our lives and I don’t think, with the traffic being as it is, the store would bring anything positive to Walsall.”

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