Controversial plans for a new Lidl supermarket and homes in Lower Earley could be in doubt after the local council has recommended that the scheme be refused.

The planning committee of Earley Town Council met to discuss plans for a new Lidl and 43 homes off Meldreth Way in Lower Earley.

The developers Lower Earley Properties Limited have argued the plan will provide much needed affordable homes and employment opportunities in the area.

But they have faced stiff opposition from neighbours who affectionately call the development site Swallows Meadow.

The developers also drew the ire of  Liberal Democrat campaigners in the area when trees at the site were chopped down by contractors last November.

Earley Town Council’s planning committee has recommended that the plan be refused for 10 reasons:

  1. The land is a greenfield, not a brownfield site
  2. The perceived loss of local amenity (with the area affectionately being known as Swallows Meadow) – with the committee arguing the Lidl would ‘destroy the green corridor’ and the plan would not enhance the local environment
  3. The proposed footpath through the development ‘presents an urban aspect’ and does not enhance the area
  4. The Lidl is far from other retail sites, and is more likely to attract ‘passing trade’ than serving immediate neighbours
  5. The committee have claimed access to the development is not adequate or safe
  6. The committee claims the development fails to address the climate emergency with a lack of sustainability measures for both the homes and the Lidl
  7. The committee argue the Energy Statement submitte as part of the plan fails to make it clear that photo voltaic panels would be installed to all residential properties
  8. The Lidl could present a traffic danger, with the potential for fast moving vehicles exiting the Lower Earley Way roundabout
  9. Claim the ecological statement submitted for the plan fails to account for the existence of a badger sett
  10. They claim that the acoustic and lighting report submitted for the plan is inadequate

An extraordinary meeting of the Earley Town Council planning committee was called to discuss the plan. Of the six members of the committee present, five are Liberal Democrats, and one member, Marion Shaw, is a member of the Labour Party.

The council is controlled by the Liberal Democrats. Of the 25 councillors, 21 Lib Dems, two are Labour and two are Conservatives.

Earley Town Council is only a consultee. Although the opinions of the council’s planning committee can influence decisions, the ultimate decision on the plan will be made by Wokingham Borough Council’s planning committee.

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For their part, a spokesperson for Lower Earley Properties said: “Our plans will deliver great value shopping for local families, create hundreds of new jobs and provide 43 homes – 40 per cent of which will be affordable housing.

“We are also proposing new electric vehicle charging points, almost 150 new trees and additional landscaping at the site.

“Whilst there will always be those who oppose new investment, we are delighted over 600 local residents have written in support of our plans.

“Given the level of public interest, it is only right that Wokingham Borough Council brings the application before its Planning Committee so elected members can make the final decision.”

Of the 43 homes proposed, a total of 17 will be affordable. Five will be affordable through shared ownership, and 12 will be affordable through social rent.

If approved, the Lidl would be accessed from Meldreth Way, and the homes would be accessed from Chatteris Way.

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You can view the plans in full, including Earley Town Council’s recommendations, by typing reference 211686 into Wokingham Borough Council’s planning portal here .

The developers and opponents recently clashed with competing opinion surveys supporting either sides view.

A survey conducted by the developers showed 662 people supported the plan, compared with 117 people expressing objections.

However, a poll on Facebook turned out the opposite result, with 518 members of the Earley Residents Discussion Board Facebook community voting that they did not want the Lidl and 159 people voting for the Lidl plan.