Supermarket giant Asda has won its bid to increase the floorspace at its Aylesbury store by 25% despite opposition from rival supermarket Morrisons and a parish council.
The store at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, which opened in November last year, applied for permission to increase its shopfloor from 1,000 square metres to 1,250 after it found the store became congested at peak times.
The plans show no alterations to the exterior of the building but the interior changes will see part of the supermarket’s storage area become shopping space.
Rival supermarket Morrisons, which has a store in Station Way, Aylesbury, lodged an objection claiming the extension would impact town centre businesses.
Others raised concerns over the impact on car parking in the nearby residential roads opposite the supermarket, as the current system requires customers to purchase a £2 ticket which is refunded if they spend over £5 in store.
At the moment, customers can park for up to 15 minutes for free, but the committee was keen to see if this time could be extended to 30 minutes to encourage more people to use the store’s dedicated car park.
Cllr Netta Glover said: “It’s mad because we have a half-empty car park and people blocking up the residential roads. I do think it needs to be reviewed.”
Planning officers had recommended councillors approve the application, despite it appearing to go against council policy which states retail in that area of town should not exceed 1,000 sq metres.
Speaking on behalf of Stoke Mandeville Parish Council during the Aylesbury Vale District Council planning meeting this afternoon, Cllr Marcus Rogers hit back at the store’s eagerness to get an application in just six months after it opened its doors – saying it wasn’t sufficient enough trading time to warrant an increase in floorspace.
During the debate, he also questioned the plans for an extra row of shelving: “Putting more shelves in doesn’t address the issue of congestion, it just flies in the face of logic.
Speaking on behalf of Asda, Keith Nutter said in response: “I think it is important to put this application into context – it is a modest internal extension in order to create a better environment for our customers.
“The store has proved to be a popular asset to the community and we simply want to improve that asset.”
Mr Nutter also quashed Morrisons’ claims that the extra floor space would generate an extra turnover of £3.1m.
He said: “That figure is not valid. I doubt that the extension will cause people to rush to our store when they didn’t shop there before, but it will simply be there to provide better experience for the customers who are already using it, as well as stocking a wider range of products.”
In a rather tongue-in-cheek response, committee member Llew Monger said: “How altruistic of Asda not wanting to make any more money from this expansion, and now people will have space to do a tea dance while they’re doing their shopping. Maybe we should have more big retailers like Asda.”
The application was passed after seven councillors voted for the plans with just one against and the committee resolved to ask officers to look at car parking changes.