CUT-PRICE supermarket Aldi is poised to open a new store in Hampshire after a ten-year planning battle.
It had been one of Hampshire’s longest-running planning controversies but a decade on, the store is finally set to open its doors in April.
At its height the row even sparked allegations that Winchester was too posh for the German retailer.
Four times Winchester planners rejected the Aldi scheme before a planning inspector backed plans in 2009 after a second public inquiry.
The trader’s struggle contrasted with the relative ease with which upmarket Waitrose gained permission for a similar-sized store in 2007 on land next to the Aldi site.
Then for three years the supermarket delayed construction before building began in the autumn.
Progress has been speedy and the store on the former Chimneys pub site off Burnett Close, Weeke, is set to open on April 25.
Local people who opposed Aldi denied they were motivated by snobbery.
Resident Brian Wareham said: “We argued purely on the grounds that Burnett Close is a narrow residential road and the store would impinge on the residents. It was about losing a pub and a house and not whether it was Aldi, Lidl or Waitrose.”
Mr Wareham said he remained concerned that the 52-space car park would be too small. “I’m not convinced it will be sufficient. Waitrose next door is getting busier and busier. We now have double yellow lines in Burnett Close so there should not be a problem in our road.”
He paid tribute to the builders: “They have been extremely good, conscious of the neighbours and don’t cause problems with the parking or the mud. It has been very well managed.”
Aldi are just pleased the waiting is soon to finish.
Phillip Warner, Aldi property director, said: “We are delighted to announce that the construction of the new Aldi store in Winchester is well under way and we look forward to opening our doors to our new customers. We are all really excited about being part of the Winchester community.
“Winchester has featured on our town requirements list for a new store for many years and we are confident that our discount format will offer the town a genuine alternative as well as a substantial saving on the cost of the average weekly shop.”
The company obtained planning permission for the site after an appeal in 2009 and many residents were unhappy work did not begin until last September.
But Mr Warner said the work was carried out as scheduled and that the store was needed in the city.
He said: “There was no delay in starting work; it was just a matter of scheduling our projects in response to the economic climate. There’s a definite under-provision of food retail in Winchester and that has been shown in the granting of planning permission.
"We are not specifically targeting anyone, we are for absolutely everybody and have offers for everybody.”
The store will create 27 jobs, including manager, assistant manager and 25 shop assistants. So far 50 per cent of the jobs have been given to local residents.