IT WAS one of the biggest planning battles ever seen in a Hampshire community.

Two applications to build a £7 million Lidl supermarket in New Road, Hythe, sparked strong views for and against, with hundreds of people on both sides of the debate determined to make their voices heard.

The first proposal was rejected by just one vote in 2017 but a revised scheme was approved by an overwhelming majority a few months later.

Now Lidl UK announced that the new store - which has created 40 full-time and part-time jobs - will open next Thursday.

New Forest Post:

The company’s regional head of property, James Mitchell, said: “We would like to thank all those who have played a part in bringing this new Lidl store to Hythe.

“It is great for us to be able to create more jobs and investment opportunities in the area, and we can’t wait to start serving our multi-award winning products to the local community.”

The store has been built on what was formerly a public car park opposite the offices of Hythe and Dibden Parish Council.

Lidl’s initial application was turned down by New Forest District Council, with one member describing the proposed store as a “large tin box” that resembled buildings normally found on industrial estates.

Lidl later submitted a new scheme which aimed to ensure the supermarket blended in with nearby St John’s Church and other historic buildings. The new design was approved by 16 votes to one at a meeting of the council’s planning and development control committee. Members said Lidl had replaced a “square box” with something which was “much more fitting”.

New Forest Post:

Speaking at the time Cllr Alison Hoare said: “We are very lucky that Lidl have come back with another application.”

Citing the changes made to the original design Cllr Hoare, who represents neighbouring Marchwood, said: “Lidl have listened to us and should have our 100% support.”

During the debate it emerged the council had received 48 letters of objection but more than 300 from people who supported the proposal.

The new supermarket includes an in-store bakery, customer toilets, baby-changing facilities and what the company describes as “ample parking” for cars and bicycles.

As reported, Lidl has submitted plans to build two new stores in Southampton. If the applications are approved one of the stores will be built in Brownhill Way and the other will occupy the former site of the Inchcape Jaguar Land Rover garage in Banister Road.