The hotly anticipated decision on Lidl’s plan for a new discount supermarket on Hereford’s Belmont Road, replacing the Three Counties Hotel, proved to be a case study in how apparently unpopular planning applications can still come to be approved.

The eventual vote to approve it by Herefordshire Council’s planning committee yesterday (March 14), after more than two hours’ deliberation, came as a surprise and disappointment to many.

Over 40 objections had been lodged against the plan, while a previous larger scheme by the retailer was opposed by a petition of more than 1,100 signatures.


Local councillor Kevin Tillett told the meeting that locals’ big objection was the impact on traffic, and said the submitted traffic studies “beggar belief” as the A465 “can't absorb the traffic at the moment”.

The hotel had also been “an iconic and much-loved social hub” before its closure a year ago, he added.

And former council leader Coun David Hitchiner, who represents nearby Stoney Street ward, said Belmont Road traffic already deters out-of-town shoppers from coming into the city.

But in a 76-page report for the meeting, planning officer Heather Carlisle explained her reasons for recommending councillors approve the plan.


“Council transport officers have confirmed that the proposal is not anticipated to cause any significant capacity issues on the local highway network,” it said.

No “significant adverse impact” been shown to town-centre trade, nor was “loss of a community asset” a valid reason to refuse the plan, she told the meeting.

An update from the council's transport manager confirmed that “no capacity issues are shown to occur” on the A465 even in a “worst-case scenario”, due to the “generous” new planned lane for cars turning in to the supermarket.

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To which Coun Bruce Baker, a backer of the plan, said the committee was “digging ourselves a great big hole” without evidence of increased traffic.

“We should be careful about going against our own officers,” he said.

And committee chair Coun Terry James said the many claims that the store would worsen traffic were “anecdotal, which planning inspectors take no notice of”, should a refused bid then go to appeal – with the risk of a big costs award against the council.

This appeared to sway some on the committee, and Coun Richard Thomas’ motion to refuse the plan fell.