CLOSE to 3,000 people in a West Yorkshire valley have had their say on controversial plans to demolish a fire-damaged mill building and replace it with an Aldi supermarket and parking space for 90 vehicles.
The proposals for the former Colne Mills in Britannia Road, Slaithwaite in Huddersfield’s Colne Valley have divided the village, with around 1,000 in favour of the scheme and close to 2,000 in opposition.
Opponents of the plan were in favour of preserving the mill building and were left angry and frustrated when a fire caused extensive damage to the disused mill in August this year. Councillors will vote on the application on Thursday following discussion of a planning officer’s report which is recommending approval.
Supporters of the scheme have told Kirklees Council that fears about traffic and the detrimental impact on existing shops are unfounded.
More than 180 letters of support have been received by the council along with petitions containing several hundred names.
They have argued that the village needs a supermarket as it will bring in shoppers, stop people shopping elsewhere, create jobs and rid the village of an “eyesore” derelict building.
Supporters also argue that an Aldi will make life easier for locals as they will no longer need to travel miles to another supermarket.
But critics, including local Conservative MP Jason McCartney, say an increase in traffic on Britannia Road will cause congestion and will destroy the “tranquil” nature of the village.
They also claim that access for articulated lorries is inadequate and the village’s appeal as a tourist destination will be ruined.
One opponent of the scheme said: “Aldi is a foreign supermarket that will be importing a lot of its stock which goes completely against everything that the valley has fought, show through its ingenuity of creating local food groups and sources – for example, there is only one milk heard in the Colne valley, and most of the local, individual shops sell it.
“It is unlikely that Aldi will use such local producers, therefore not supporting the sustainability of the valley.”
Jason McCartney says that Slaithwaite is already congested during peak times and that an increased number of HGVs and cars going to and from the store will cause further problems.
He said: “The proposed Aldi store will draw in traffic to Slaithwaite while not necessarily providing any additional parking to benefit other businesses.
“The arrival of Aldi will affect the trade of popular and community-focused businesses but it’s the insurmountable highways issues that lead me to call for this planning application to be rejected.”
The council’s own planning report concludes that the Aldi proposal would help improve Slaithwaite’s local shopping provision “where it is evident that there is currently substantial leakage of expenditure from Slaithwaite and the surrounding area and it is considered that the proposal would help claw back a proportion of this expenditure and thus enhance the local retail provision.”
On the traffic issue, the report says: “It is considered that traffic generated by the proposed food store can be accommodated in the local highway network and would not result in any undue highway safety implications or capacity problems.”
Campaigners are so against the proposed supermarket that they have created a website to highlight their cause at www.slaithwaite.org/aaa.
However the campaign was dealt a blow in August when a fire caused serious damage to the building in what at the time was believed to have been a suspected arson attack.
Members of the planning committee will discuss the plans at a meeting on Thursday.