The supermarket chain Lidl has confirmed it is looking to open a store in Shaftesbury.
The popular store, which already has branches in Gillingham and Blandford, told Gillingham & Shaftesbury News: ‘We are in the process of exploring various options to bring a Lidl store to Shaftesbury and look forward to sharing any firm plans with the community, as soon as we’re in a position to do so.’
However, neither the store nor North Dorset District Council would confirm that their plans involve the town’s cattle market.
Last Monday, 23 April, site owner NDDC decided it would sell the cattle market and announced it was going to ‘a leading supermarket chain’.
But the council did not immediately reveal the name of the chain, though Lidl are rumoured to be the store involved.
A statement issued immediately after NDDC’s cabinet made the decision on 23 April said the council believes its decision ‘will provide the town with a second supermarket, provide jobs, support the local economy and redevelop the site.
Councillor Michael Roake, briefholder for environment at NDDC, said: ‘We believe this is a positive result for Shaftesbury. It gives people a much-needed choice of supermarkets within the town instead of the need to travel to other areas.
‘We received a number of strong bids for the site, which shows the appeal of the town and this prime location.
‘Our thanks go out to Southern Counties Auctioneers who have maintained the site for more than 60 years and have been a major contributor to the North Dorset economy.’
The site, in a prime location in Christy’s Lane, had been marketed covertly by NDDC and SCA and it had attracted bids from a number of providers of retail, hospitality and leisure services.
The deal involves an undisclosed settlement with Southern Counties Auctioneers who have held auctions at the site since 1987 and have a lease until 2054. Estimates of the site’s freehold value have ranged from £2-£4 million.
Responding to the sale decision Simon Whalley of Southern Counties Auctioneers said: ‘The sale is going to take quite a while to sort so I can’t yet tell you when our final auction will be. As to whether or not the deal will give is what we want we’ll see. Everything’s with the solicitors at the moment.’
The sale will also displace Super Hand Care Wash operated by Hemdad Saeed who has run it since 2011. Hemdad, a Kurd born in northern Iraq who lives in Sweetmans Road and is now a British citizen, who has been desperately looking for another location in Shaftesbury but so far without success.
The sale to a supermarket may disappoint Shaftesbury Town Council who had wanted the site to be developed for leisure facilities with a gym and other health facilities.
Shaftesbury town clerk Claire Commons, who attended at meeting at NDDC on 18 April with the town council’s lead member for asset acquisitions Councillor Lester Taylor, said the town council had made a strong plea for any sale to take into account the town council’s wishes for the site.
These included that any development should provide clear thoroughfares linking it to the town centre and that any retail development complements the High Street and does not compete with it.
She said NDDC had also been asked to consider keeping the existing parking terms and conditions in force until development work starts and to negotiate for the same terms under the new use if possible.
• There has been a livestock market in Shaftesbury since the 19th century and the existing market can trace its history back to 1902 when John Jeffery began an open-air market in Bell Street. The market moved to its present site in 1958.