Plans for a new Aldi supermarket in the Hetton area have been given the green light by city councillors.
Sunderland City Council’s Planning and Highways Committee, at a meeting this week, gave the stamp of approval for the discount food giant to open a shop at Colliery Lane.
This included a retail building with a footprint of 1,867 square metres served by 102 parking spaces and accessed via a ‘modified pedestrian and vehicular access’.
The site is surrounded by a number of uses, including an industrial estate to the north, houses to the east and west and a cricket club to the south.
During a consultation exercise on the plans, Sunderland City Council received more than 80 representations, with the majority in support.
A total of 71 representations were in favour of the supermarket with comments referencing local employment, the re-use of vacant land, and the new supermarket “enhancing the image of the area”.
Elsewhere, around 15 objections raised concerns about Aldi “taking business away” from the existing Hetton shopping centre, anti-social behaviour, noise disruption from deliveries and increased traffic.
Hetton Town Council, while welcoming the benefits of the supermarket around employment opportunities and consumer choice, raised concerns on behalf of residents.
This included a “widespread concern about longstanding inadequacies in local transport infrastructure to support existing high levels of traffic which would be exacerbated by increased vehicular activity”.
Arguments for and against Aldi’s proposals were put forward at a Planning and Highways Committee meeting on February 5, 2024, at City Hall.
Council planners said the Aldi development would potentially “claw back” expenditure into the local area, as well as boosting “linked trips” to other local businesses and facilities.
Several public objectors attended the meeting to raise concerns, with some comments referencing the history of the site and a covenant to “keep it as a sports facility”, as well as calls for an investigation into how the land was designated for development.
Another public objector noted previous plans for a Lidl in the area being refused by the council in 2001 over traffic concerns and the “adverse effect on the vitality and viability of nearby shopping centres”.
It was argued that road infrastructure had not been updated since this decision, despite new housing developments, and that the new Aldi would increase traffic onto an already busy road.
Councillor David Geddis, mayor of Hetton Town Council, said there was a “general consensus of support in the local community for the proposal”, as well as concern about local transport and infrastructure.
It was also noted that Aldi had committed to work with Sunderland City Council’s highways department and other stakeholders to look at any issues linked to the development.
Cllr Geddis added: “So fundamentally, Hetton Town Council is in favour of this with caveats”.
Helen Simms, real estate director for Aldi Stores, also spoke at the planning meeting at City Hall and described the Hetton development as an “investment of around £6 million in the local area”.
It was noted that Aldi would be a “responsible neighbour” by recruiting the store manager and staff from the local area, as well as attracting footfall and “keeping retail spend local to Hetton”.
The Aldi representative told councillors the shop would create around “40 new full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs”, despite a council planning report listing “up to 20 FTE”.
During discussion of the application, several councillors spoke about the positive impacts of Aldi supermarkets in their wards, including in Pennywell and Washington.
Councillor Iain Scott, committee member and Hetton ward councillor, said he was “delighted” to see the application come forward.
Cllr Scott told the meeting: “It’s going to provide a much-needed provision to Hetton where people are currently travelling out-of-area to find a supermarket of similar ilk, either Aldi in Doxford Park or Seaham, or Lidl down in Houghton.
“Sometimes driving there is not always viable for people in our community, they’re hauling bags on buses to get to and from these locations.
“So having something right on the doorstep is going to be absolutely brilliant for them”.
Councillor Ciaran Morrissey added issues around land use and a covenant couldn’t be considered by the Planning and Highways Committee.
The councillor said the committee had to weigh up the “massive increase” in the number of houses over the last two decades, as well as retail choices and employment opportunities.
Cllr Morrissey told the meeting: “We’re never going to please everybody, there are always going to be winners and there are always going to be losers.
“I think in this case the people that are disadvantaged by this application are far outweighed by the people who benefit from the store”.
Sunderland City Council planning officers, in a report prepared ahead of the decision-making meeting, had recommended Aldi’s plans for approval.
Council planners noted the site had been allocated for development for years and that the new supermarket would “provide new employment opportunities and a facility to meet people’s convenience goods retail needs”.
The council committee report added: “The proposal would be a discount food store, which means there would be a contribution towards the City Plan, which seeks as part of a vibrant smart city for residents who are more resilient to ongoing challenges including [sic] the cost-of-living crisis”.
Council planners also referenced an issue raised by Hetton Lyons Cricket Club around the potential for “stray cricket balls” to enter the Aldi site, with measures being discussed to help prevent this.
The council committee report added that the “affected parties are content that the matter can be controlled via a planning condition which would be determined by the local planning authority”.
After being put to the vote, the plans won unanimous support from the Planning and Highways Committee.
Aldi representatives said they hoped to open the new Hetton Aldi supermarket by the end of 2024.
Councillor Claire Rowntree, Hetton ward member and deputy leader of Sunderland City Council, described the planning update as “fantastic news”.
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Cllr Rowntree, speaking after the meeting, added: “As [Hetton] councillors, we aspire to constantly raise the profile of the ward by making it a better place for people to live, work and raise a family.
“Developments such as this are key to helping us realise those goals.”
The planning application can be viewed via Sunderland City Council’s planning portal website by searching reference: 23/00747/FUL