Lidl could have paid three times the market rate to purchase the Good Companions pub site on Limpsfield Road, Sanderstead, and look like they could be left with a £2.2 million real estate bill for a store that few locals actually want.
The pub – just inside the Croydon-Surrey boundary, at the junction of Limpsfield Road and Tithepit Shaw Lane – closed earlier this year for the final time. The difficulties in the pub business are well-known, but the Good Companions, despite its prime position, had deeper, reputational issues, having been the scene of a shotgun double murder 10 years ago.
The pub’s closure leaves the area without any nearby public houses – the closest now being at Warlingham Green, while Sanderstead has no pubs at all.
The area has no shortage of supermarkets, however, with a Waitrose and Co-op nearby, and a large Sainsbury’s at Warlingham.
Two weeks ago, more than 200 residents attended a public meeting and expressed outright hostility to Lidl moving in on the area. They voiced fears the supermarket chain would bring additional traffic chaos, affect property prices and damage independent businesses, including the local post office.
Last night senior staff from the German budget supermarket chain attended a public consultation at the Post Office club in Trenham Drive, where it emerged that the company had paid £2.2 million for the site. Local property values suggest that a similar sized property in Sanderstead would normally sell for little more than £700,000 – suggesting that interest in the site from Tesco had created a bidding war.
But residents seem implacably opposed and influential local councillors are already flagging up possible problems over planning permission.
“We do not want Lidl,” said Lynne Hale, the parliamentary assistant for local MP Richard Ottaway and a Sanderstead councillor. “The design looks like it’s a box. It is horrible. That is not withstanding all the other issues such as the traffic.”
Hale, together with councillors Tim Pollard and Yvette Hopley, have undertaken to oppose any development that does not respect the landmark site and village character of the area.
Interesting how this can be done so readily for the proposal of a Lidl in Sanderstead, while the landmark Swan & Sugarloaf pub and village character of the Selsdon Road is ignored by their Conservative colleagues on the council from Fairfield, Croham and Waddon wards when it comes to a Tesco Express in South Croydon.
Back at the Good Companions: with two schools – Hamsey Green juniors and Warlingham secondary – nearby on Tithepit Shaw Lane, there are well-founded fears that a supermarket could attract additional traffic which would endanger children, and not only at school times.
Mal Webb is a vice-president of the nearby Warlingham rugby club, which has hundreds of children, aged from six to 18, attending its mini and junior sections each Sunday. “We oppose this very strongly,” said Webb, a prominent local businessman.
“This will increase the traffic flow immensely in an area which is surrounded by sports clubs and local schools and will become a serious threat to children in and around the area.
“There are no zebra crossings or pelican crossings in either Tithe Pit Shaw Lane or on the busy Limpsfield Road at Hamsey Green, making this area unsafe.”
The proposals look to have entered the battle of the petitions. Lidl’s online petition has attracted 150 signatures in favour, while 251 people have signed a petition already submitted to Croydon Council opposing the demolition of the pub.
The Facebook group “Save the Good Companions” has more than 600 followers, and it is calling upon residents to pin ribbons to the hoardings surrounding the site to signal their opposition to the development.
A third potential buyer of the site had been the pub group behind the Hungry Horse chain – a buyer that would seem to be more acceptable to locals.
One concerned resident who wrote to Inside Croydon said: “Since the introduction of Sainsbury’s half a mile to my left and Waitrose half a mile to my right, the main road is constantly busier with large juggernauts delivering to both of these stores.
“Now I hear Lidl are taking over my local pub The Good Companions. This cannot be allowed to happen, it will kill local shops, including the small Co-op which doubles up as our only post office.”
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