CONTROVERSIAL plans to open a new Lidl supermarket in Pickering on an "eyesore" site have been backed by a Government planning inspector who has criticised Ryedale Council's decision to refuse the application.
The report also hits out at North Yorkshire County Council which wants to see highway improvements near the site at the junction of Vivis Lane and the busy A170.
"I remain less than convinced about North Yorkshire County Council's commitment to the proposed realignment scheme and its ability to deliver," says the inspector, adding that the traffic benefits shown by the highway authority were based on a "flawed" assessment.
He said the land use implications of the scheme had not been fully considered and referred to a letter from the county surveyor saying any meaningful discussions on options for improving the junction will ''inevitably need to consider future development proposals in the area and the Old Coalyard is clearly a part of this consideration alongside the imminent vacation of the NYCC area offices".
The site at the Old Coal Depot in Southgate which is currently a heap of rubble has been described by members of Pickering Town Council as a bombsite and an eyesore.
The town's mayor, Cllr Brian Baker, said: "I am glad a decision has been reached and we will have to see how things proceed from here.
"We hope something happens one way or another and the site made tidy either as a supermarket or an improved junction."
He acknowledged that not everyone in the town wanted to see a store there but the council generally backed the scheme as it felt it would provide more retail competition in the town and jobs.
During a public inquiry Ryedale Council officials acknowledged that having a supermarket on the edge of the centre would reduce the need to travel, would not have a material impact on the town centre and would create employment.
Representatives of Lidl also argued it would increase car parking in the centre and be well served by public transport as well as encouraging linked trips.
The inspector points out that when planning permission was refused the district council's reason referred to a junction improvement that had not yet been designed or accepted by the highway authority.
"I do not think the reason for refusal was justified and there is a strong natural justice argument to be weighed in the balance on this issue."