Aldi threatens to pull out of £5million new Milton Keynes supermarket scheme during dramatic meeting

    Aldi’s representative threatened to pull the plug on a £5 million new supermarket during a dramatic virtual meeting.

    Aldi’s representative threatened to pull the plug on a £5 million new supermarket during a dramatic virtual meeting.

    The new store in Stantonbury has already been given permission but the start date for building it in Purbeck depends on coming up with a way of saving the Bicycle Mural.

    Councillors had wanted to connect the issues of how to take the mural off the wall at the Stantonbury Centre with knowing where it would go.

    But Aldi wanted to be able to remove the wall before knowing where it will go, which was the stumbling block.

    Dan Templeton, the agent for Aldi, told Thursday’s meeting of Milton Keynes Council’s development control committee that if the project was delayed the company would take its £5 million investment away.

    “That would be a huge blow to the people of Stantonbury,” he said. “There is no window opportunity, it will equal an end to this investment.”

    He said Aldi had worked hard for a plan to save the mural.

    As late as Tuesday this week, the company had agreed to a sixth version of a method statement for taking the mural off the wall. It is made of 1,200 tiles, making it a delicate task.

    Councillors were told that the future of the wall was not to be considered.

    Senior planning officer Katy Lycett said that the position was not what the committee had wanted but officers found the compromise acceptable.

    But Tim Skelton, who chairs the MK Forum, called for the issue to be deferred so that the future of Bicycle Wall can be considered.

    “We support the store but not at any cost,” he said.

    That position was not tenable for Stantonbury parish council chairman Graham Davidson or ward councillor Alex Walker.

    Cllr Davidson said he did not see the mural as having significant merit for it to be a block to the store.

    And Cllr Walker, who leads the Conservative group on the council, said the area needed the 40 jobs the store would bring.

    “We are facing a real risk of mass unemployment,” he said. “We must keep jobs at the forefront of our minds. We cannot afford to risk this investment.

    “The mural has been at risk for many years. This is a good balance.”

    Labour’s Cllr Martin Petchey took an opposite line to his Stantonbury ward opponent by proposing deferring the vote to allow the mural’s future to be sorted out.

    The committee was told by legal officers that the committee could not force that to happen.

    And the council’s conservation officer Simon Peart said he had the mural’s preservation at heart. “I feel we have got pretty much where we need to,” he said.

    A dramatic knife edge vote saw councillors reject putting off a decision by five to four with two abstentions.

    Then they voted to support Aldi’s plan.

    After the meeting Cllr Walker said he was pleased with the decision. “We can now more forward,” he said.

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