A plan to build a new Lidl supermarket in Lower Earley has been refused due to the ‘overbearing’ impact it would have on neighbours.

Developers Lower Earley Properties had hoped to build a new Lidl and 43 homes off Meldreth Way in Lower Earley.

However, the plan was rejected due to the loss of countryside and the impact the development would have on neighbours and local roads.

The scheme has been unpopular with neighbours ever since contractors for the developers engaged in legal preparation works at the site in November last year.

Opponents of the scheme accused the contractors of the site ‘deforestation’ of the site, which is designated countryside known as Swallows Meadow.

READ MORE: More than 1000 people sign petition to 'save' Swallows Meadow

Lower Earley Properties had argued that 662 people showed their support for the new Lidl and the homes in a survey conducted on its behalf.

But ultimately the plan was deemed “unacceptable in principle” and was refused unanimously by Wokingham Borough Council’s planning committee.

During the committee’s meeting yesterday (Wednesday, December 8), speeches were made by Liberal Democrat councillors who have opposed the plan from the outset, neighbour Malcolm Gaudreau, and the developer Andy Jansons.

Mr Gaudreau said: “Swallows Meadow has always been an open green space, which was rich in plant and animal life.

“It has always been used by vast amounts of people for recreation over the 34 years that I’ve lived here.”

Bracknell News: Neighbours and Liberal Democrats protesting the 'deforestation' at Swallows Meadow in November last year. Credit: Wokingham Liberal DemocratsNeighbours and Liberal Democrats protesting the 'deforestation' at Swallows Meadow in November last year. Credit: Wokingham Liberal Democrats

Councillor Clive Jones (Liberal Democrat, Hawkedon) said: “I live nearby the proposed development, it’s in my ward, my constituents never expected a development in the countryside which is their backyard.

“Views are not sacrosanct in planning law, but the proposal is overbearing.

“The store is a large high mass which will dominate the views of houses around the area.

“It will cause unacceptable noise throughout the day.”

Mr Jansons, the applicant, attempted to convince the committee to defer their decision so ‘technical issues’ such as the impact the plan could have on local roads could be addressed.

Responding to concerns about noise levels, he pointed out that the council’s environmental health officer has raised no objections to the plan.

But planning officer Senjuti Manna argued that deferral would be pointless, as she said the scheme was “unacceptable in principle.”

On balance, she did acknowledge that the Lidl store would bring economic benefits and employment, and 17 of the homes being built (40 per cent) would be affordable.

But she argued that the benefits were outweighed by the loss of the countryside and the impact the development would have on neighbours.

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Cllr Carl Doran (Independent, Bulmershe & Whitegates) said: “The site is clearly part of a green corridor. Here we’ve got a long green corridor that goes all the way from Showcase Cinema to Shinfield.

“Once we fill in one little bit of it, the rest is going to go.”

Cllr Doran added this was one of the most controversial applications he has ever determined.

Although 662 people showed support for the plan, Cllr Pauline Jorgensen (Conservative, Hillside) pointed out that several of these supporters come from further afield.

Cllr Jorgensen said: “Either they’ve got no reason to be interested in this store, or they’re going to drive there from Reading, Guildford and Wokingham and gum the whole place up with additional traffic.”

The plan was refused in a unanimous vote of six Conservatives and two Independent councillors present at the meeting.

You can view the meeting and watch coverage in this tweet thread: 

There are worries that the developers will appeal the decision.

After the meeting, cllr David Hare (Liberal Democrats, Hawkedon) said: “We’ve won the first battle, but we haven’t won the war.

“It will go to appeal, we’ve got to make sure people come out again and object to it, and give good planning reasons to object to it, because that is the only way we can have the appeal turned down.”

Lower Earley Properties has six months to lodge an appeal.