A DISCOUNT supermarket, drive-thru coffee shop and chain bakery is coming to a business park, despite concerns it could suck business out of Andover town centre.

A plan which would see a Lidl, Greggs and a Starbucks drive-thru built on empty land at Walworth Business Park, creating 60 jobs, was unanimously approved at a meeting on Thursday 29 March.

Test Valley Borough Council’s planning committee members agreed the development “ticks a lot of boxes” with providing amenities for residents and business park employees, and making use of the plot of land which has been marketed since 2011 in which time, according to developer Kier Group, has “not generated any interest”.

Councillor Sandra Hawke said: “This is part of the council moving on. In the olden days this is an industrial estate; it is not that anymore. We have to move with the times.

“There are people that work out there that would absolutely welcome this and would make very good use of a very difficult site.”

The site, which would also contain a fourth unit, could be operational by May next year.

An impact assessment in the application stated the overall effect on turnover in Andover town centre is -4.85 per cent, on average between discount and non-discount food stores.

One member of the public spoke to oppose the plans, expressing his concern for footfall loss in the town centre.

David Coole, of Upper Clatford, said: “Lidl says it currently has no plans to close its in-town store but that is not cast in stone as we have painfully learnt from the closures of Tesco Metro, McDonalds and Currys/PC World.

“The one thing we do know about big business is that they act in their interests and not Andover town centre or its residents.

“This development will result in an estimated £2.03m food trade loss alone for the town centre food stores and an even greater loss of town centre footfall, which we cannot afford to lose.

“The store will also take footfall from the future Co-op store on Picket Twenty. Walworth already has independent food stores and visiting food vans that cater for employees’ needs.”

“If you approve this application, you will not be able to reject future retail store applications.”

Councillor Jim Neal added: “My only concern is the town centre Lidl closing, but it is only taking a small hit from that.

“All three are quick ‘in and out’ [stores]. All in all I support it.”

Hampshire Highways also addressed traffic concerns of the committee, placing no objection to the plans as long as improvements were made to the Twinings roundabout and other access for pedestrians and bus stops.

Andrew Elliott, Kier’s agent, said it will be expanding pedestrian and cycle routes.

Since the approval was given, a Kier spokesperson said: “We’re delighted that our development plans at Walworth Business Park have been approved by Test Valley Borough Council. The new scheme will create an additional 60 jobs and we are confident it will prove popular with the 5,000 people currently working at the park as well as the wider community.”

“As part of the development, we’ll also be working with the council to improve the local highways and wider community infrastructure. Work is scheduled to begin on site this summer with the units completed in March 2019, followed by a fit-out period which will see the new shops open from May 2019.”