How the new Aldi store might look in St Leonards. Pic: Daniel Graves Photography.

New Aldi supermarket criticised: ‘When are we going to get a Waitrose in Hastings?’

Residents have voiced criticism about the building of a new Aldi supermarket at the site of a former Government office block in St Leonards.

By Alex Watts
Tuesday, 25th January 2022, 12:29 pm

Developers Danescroft have been given permission to start building a new Aldi store, a community centre, and 151 new homes at Ashdown House, the former Department for Work and Pensions’ office buildings, on Sedlescombe Road North.

Aldi said its new store would create up to 50 jobs. The German-based discount supermarket chain already has two stores in the Hastings area - one in Rye Road, Hastings, and another in Bexhill Road, St Leonards, which opened in September 2020. It also has a supermarket in London Road, Bexhill.

Dozens of readers on the Hastings Observer’s Facebook pages criticised the plans, with many asking why the area needed another supermarket. Some gave suggestions on what other stores and businesses they would have liked to see there instead. Several said they would have preferred a Waitrose supermarket, rather than another Aldi.

Nicholas Davies wrote: “When are we going to get a Waitrose in Hastings? You would think that given the location between two of the most affluent wards in Hastings, Waitrose would be the obvious choice.” Matt Hart added: “The area needs a Waitrose. It would be great.”

Lee Prudence said: “Surely we have enough supermarkets for Hastings? Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Lidl, Aldi, Asda. And several of them dotted about.” Emma Royston pointed out: “Why do we need three Aldi stores in a four-mile radius?”

However, Michael Sugrue said: “I haven’t got a problem with houses and a supermarket - it’s better then an unused building! Just hope the council will leave Harrow Lane playing field out of building more houses, but I think it’s already gone to developers.”

Others were also in favour of the new Aldi store. Alison Pelling said: “It will create new jobs and help serve the new estate - always good to have a bit of competition.” Danielle Burton wrote: “Makes sense to build a supermarket if that many houses are going to be built there, but what about other services - doctors, dentists, schools to facilitate the 150 potential families moving in?” Lorraine Pavitt said clothes shops “are what we need” in the Hastings area. Maxine Simmonds said: “I totally admire those who work to feed us and I have done this job myself in the past, but these are mostly low-paid, low-skilled jobs that do nothing to improve the life opportunities of our communities.”

Hastings Borough Council gave permission for the major development on Wednesday last week (January 19). Despite the size of the scheme, the public response was relatively muted - with only 18 public comments on the proposals. Of these, 14 were objections, including one from Tesco. The supermarket chain’s concerns related to the new Aldi building and planning policies surrounding out of town stores. Other objectors were worried about the impact of the development on local infrastructure, in particular traffic on Sedlescombe Road North and Harrow Lane.

The scheme’s conflicts with local planning policy included the fact that only 17 (or 11%) of the 151 new homes would be “affordable properties”. According to the applicants, this was due to the viability of the site being diminished by the high cost of demolition and other site constraints. The 17 “affordable homes” are to be rented flats, which are to be taken on by a registered social housing provider. This provider will also take ownership of the community centre building. Ashdown House, which was built in the 1960s, will be demolished to make way for the housing development.

Hastings Borough Council has set a target to provide 500 new “affordable” rental properties in the town between 2022/23 and 2026/27. It says it will achieve this by working with developers and social housing providers, and acquiring and developing its own properties.

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