The authority voted unanimously in favour of the plan, but it is claimed it could now put up to 500 jobs at risk as it stands in the way of development at Riverside Business Park.
Peak District National Park Authority members met on Friday to discuss the planning application from Aldi Stores to redevelop the old Cintride factory site off Buxton Road in Bakewell, and the planning committee meeting was filled to the point of overflowing as people waited to hear the much-anticipated decision.
The authority found that Aldi’s plan would enhance trade in Bakewell, and give shoppers more choice, but it may still put the neighbouring development at Riverside Business Park at risk, as plans on the historic site required a brand supermarket tenant to pay for a new access bridge which was central to the plan, and so far no tenant had been secured.
Additionally, Litton Properties failed to address heritage issues on the site, in a policy environment that discourages development in the national park unless it is in the public interest.
Planning officer Chris Fridlington said in his recomendation for the Riverside application that certain policy issues “have not been engaged”.
There has been a call to defer Aldi’s plan until Riverside could present an application suitable to go before the committee.
But members insisted that each plan had to be judged on its own merits, and that it would not be appropriate to delay a decision for the new Aldi.
There was strong objection to the Aldi plan from tenants on Riverside Business Park.
Simon Webster, of Thornbridge Brewery, said: “We’ve been in the Peak Park for ten years and in that time we’ve seen our business grow by 400 per cent. With the lack of the bridge being built we cannot commit long term to Riverside.
“A new bridge gives us great hope of further expansion. Without that it would be difficult for us to create and protect local jobs.”
Nick Grayson, of local timber building constructor Pinelog, said: “We are objecting to the Aldi application principally because the bridge that we so desperately need will never be built.”
Mark Twelves, of Litton Properties which owns Riverside, said it was “the largest and most important employment site in the park”.
“It’s a defining moment for Riverside today,” he said. “We wish to impress upon you the importance of not approving the Aldi proposal today. The decision should at least be deferred until our proposal has been fully considered and reported to you.
“We were given direct assurances by your authority.
“Our proposal would safeguard 230 jobs and generate 300 new ones. The Aldi proposals would create 40.”
Bakewell town councillor Hilary Young urged members to defer their decision.
He said: “My concern has been for the democratic process to allow for a full comparison of the rival proposals.
“Your decision for an out-of-town food store is the most important matter for Bakewell since the redevelopment of the town centre.”
After the decision, Aldi’s planning consultant Neil Denison said: “It’s obviously an excellent result. I think a fair result and it’s been one that will hopefully be of considerable benefit to the local community. It’s clearly what Bakewell wants.
“People were travelling long distances for food, so we’ve plugged that gap.”
Chair Paul Ancell said of the meeting: “Since I’ve known Bakewell this is probably the most typical, complicated, but in a weird sense, normal planning conundrum.
“This is the sort of thing the national park authority doesn’t have to deal with but other authorities deal with day in day out.”