DISCOUNT supermarket Aldi is assessing its options to open a new store in a New Forest town after council chiefs blocked its initial plans.

The chain had tabled proposals to build a shop on land in Caird Avenue, New Milton, directly opposite the Tesco superstore.

However, members of New Forest District Council’s planning committee narrowly voted to refuse the application, with a chair’s vote deciding the outcome.

The slim majority on the committee said there was a preferable site for a store available in the town centre.

Aldi insisted this suggested site, the former Co-op store in Station Road now owned by department store Bradbeers, would not be commercially or operationally viable, having “extensively tested options” for the premises.

A spokesperson for Aldi said: “Aldi would like to thank local residents and businesses for their support for the our proposals.

“We know our customers are currently travelling some way to visit our Christchurch store, these proposals would ensure easier access to our award-winning product range and reduce the need to travel.

“We certainly haven’t given up on the Caird Avenue site in New Milton and we are looking at our options for bringing an alternative application forward.”

Bradbeers director Gregory Davies told the planning committee the Station Road site was suitable for Aldi but concerns were raised by some members around parking and the potential for the retail giant to walk away from the town if the application was rejected.

Councillors voted 9-8 for refusal, with Cllr Christine Ward having the decisive say.

The German firm said more than 4,000 and businesses were consulted on the plans, with 79 per cent of respondents reportedly in favour. These responses are said to have highlighted it as a great use of the Caird Avenue site, which is located inside the New Milton Sand and Ballast premises at present, and the need for more food store choice in the town.