Watch Claire Manning's report here.
A Devon town council is going head-to-head with a district council in a battle over plans for a new supermarket.
Ivybridge Town Council has formally objected to plans for an Aldi superstore and multi-storey car park saying it would ‘degenerate, not regenerate’ the town.
The move reinforces concerns voiced at the annual town meeting on Monday 16 May at which residents showed almost unanimous opposition to the plans.
It came after South Hams District Council issued a reminder of its own public consultation in 2020, which showed two thirds of nearly 2,000 respondents felt a new supermarket would improve footfall into the town centre and supported the proposals.
As a result of public support, in February last year South Hams council decided to go ahead with the project.
But people at the Ivybridge council meeting on Monday (May 23) said the idea of a discount supermarket was not the problem - their concern was the location in the town centre.
Many suggested locating a store on a mixed used site to the east of the town at Rutt Lane. However, Aldi has a policy of not building out-of-town.
Among concerns expressed by Ivybridge residents and town councillors was the disruption to parking both before and after the supermarket opens.
Parking in the two main car parks during the building process would be significantly reduced and residents fear a number of current parking places would be lost afterwards as they are leased to Aldi.
The district council admits there will be some ‘capacity challenges’ while construction is underway but promises measures to limit the difficulties as far as possible.
It will offer a free park and ride shuttle bus service from the railway station car park to Leonard’s Road car park, funded by the district council.
South Hams District Council insists there will be no reduction in the overall capacity once work finishes, and an extra 25 parking spaces will be provided next to the leisure centre.
The plan is to offer a mix of free, short and long stay car parking options and prices.
Some residents fear the proposal would fail to regenerate the area, with a claim it would be a “degeneration” of Ivybridge.
They suggest no plans have been made other than placing a supermarket in the centre of the town.
South Hams Council refers to an independent economic assessment carried out in 2020 which forecast that the new store would see 13,000 additional trips made to the high street, boosting town centre footfall.
The report says this would result in 16 per cent more money being spent in the high street.
The district council say the project “was envisaged to meet the aims of the town’s Neighbourhood Plan, to ensure retail growth within the town centre to increase the town’s economy and anchor other retailers to the centre”.
It adds that they hope to limit retail developments outside the town centre to ensure shoppers stay on the high street.
Nevertheless, South Hams council says it still welcomes feedback on the proposals.
A South Hams District Council’s (SHDC) spokesperson, said: “It is important to remember what our residents were consulted upon in 2020 which resulted in strong public support for the project at that time.
“It is a live planning application and understandably this is attracting a lot of interest.
“We recognise the concerns raised and we continue to work hard to address these.
“The council welcomes all feedback throughout the process and we hope that residents will take the time to submit their views through the planning portal.”
However, Ivybridge locals say SHDC has not answered all their concerns. They highlighted the removal of mature trees and Devon bank hedgerow. But SHDC says this area is ‘scrubland’.
The district council has agreed to invest around £9 million towards construction of the site, which many people attending the meeting were unhappy about.
At the town council meeting, there were concerns SHDC was putting the financial risk on all South Hams council tax payers to build an Aldi store.
Aldi would normally source its own land and build at its own cost.
Residents at the town council meeting also said there was a will to see South Hams District Council work with the town council and community to look at what enhancements could be made to the town centre that may better meet the needs of residents and visitors.
A skate park, currently next to Leonard’s Road car park, will need to be removed during construction and some residents question promises by SHDC about its future.
But the district council insists the existing skate park will be replaced with one a short distance away along the river, at the rear of the leisure centre.
Ivybridge Town Council will now submit its formal objection and detailed reasons against the Aldi proposal to South Hams District Council.
Resident can submit their views on the planning application.