Express & Star

New Lidl store given go-ahead on site of struggling Walsall pub

Discount supermarket giant Lidl is to create a brand new store on the site of a struggling Walsall pub which is predicted to ‘inevitably’ close.

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How the Lidl could look. Image: Whittam Cox Architects.

Around 40 ‘well paid’ jobs will be created when the new branch is opened in place of the Horse and Jockey pub on Walsall Road in Walsall Wood.

Planning officers at Walsall Council had initially recommended the proposal be rejected due to concerns over the loss of mature trees and the negative impact the development would have on the green belt.

But Lidl representatives said all trees lost would be replaced and that only a small part of the new store would fall within the green belt.

Members of the authority’s planning committee agreed and said the new Lidl would bring wider economic benefits and actually enhance the area.

Lidl said it is looking to open four new stores across Walsall, representing a multi-million investment, with this being the first to be put before councillors.

Ryan McTeggart, of agents Rapleys, said: “The proposal we consider will bring numerous substantial benefits including a new discount retail store for Walsall Wood providing choice and helping residents with increasing cost of living pressures.

“Up to 40 new well paid jobs starting at a minimum of £11 per hour, an energy efficient store with roof top solar panels and electric vehicle charging points, significant tree planting and landscaping including the replacement of all trees lost on site, substantial wider ecological and biodiversity enhancements supported by a 30-year habitat plan.

“We know the recommendation is for refusal on the basis of loss of trees and harm to Green Belt.

“The site is substantially previously developed, only a small proportion of the food store – around 20 per cent of the building lies within the Green Belt.

“It is bounded by developments on both sides and significant commercial buildings.”

He added the company will plant 111 new mature trees and a further 130 immature ones to replace those which are lost.

Ward councillor Anthony Harris said: “It’s not the most attractive area in Walsall Wood.

“It’s inevitable the pub will ultimately close so we are going to have another wart on the community. We’ve got enough pubs closed in the area anyway.

“I think the minimal amount of Green Belt we are talking about and the fact the developers and Lidl are saying ‘we will do everything we can to make sure we replace like for like’ is to be applauded.

“Looking at the development and the impact on that area and how much it would improve it would hopefully encourage adjacent properties to liven their selves up.”

Councillor Mark Statham added: “I do see it as a betterment of the site. It is surrounded by what we call an industrial landscape, it is not a beautiful scenic area that it may well be made out to be.

“I think this fits in perfectly. We have to look at the wider economic benefits. The generation of jobs, a cheaper food store is all a positive.”

Councillor Suky Samra said: “You’ve only got to look at the consultation replies to see no objections. We haven’t got a gallery full of residents against this or petitions against this.

“If anything, this will enhance the area ecologically so I am minded to support.”

Planning committee chairman Mike Bird proposed members approve the new store, which was supported unanimously.

He said: “The very special circumstances are the regeneration impact this store would have on the area, the trees are to be replanted are likely to have a further life of about 100 years whereas some of the existing ones may be moving to end of life.

“Furthermore, the regeneration would create much-needed jobs in the area and more importantly there is a local need.”