PLANS for a new retail development in the heart of Keighley have been approved – and a new Aldi at the heart of the development is due to open next year.

This morning members of Bradford Council’s Regulatory and Appeals approved the discount retailer’s plans to transform the long empty Alexandra Works site, off East Parade.

The development will include a new Aldi store, another large retail store, a drive thru coffee shop and three smaller shops.

The plans first went before the Committee in November, but members deferred their decision, and asked Aldi to go back to the drawing board after raising concerns about the scheme’s design and layout.

Aldi re-designed the plan, and at yesterday’s online meeting members hailed the much improved scheme as one that could help invigorate Keighley Town Centre.

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They praised both Aldi and planning officers for working together to develop a much better scheme for the town.

When the plans went before the Committee in November planning officers had recommended the scheme be refused. They compared the plans to an out of town retail park being placed in a town centre, and said there was too car centric – with few pedestrian links to the town centre and neighbouring East Parade.

To deal with these concerns, Aldi re-designed the plans so the drive thru coffee shop no longer backs onto East Parade – instead three smaller shops will have frontages on the street.

More public space is included in the new plans, including better pedestrian links to East Parade and Coney Lane.

And there will be a pedestrian traffic light crossing on East Parade.

The decision in November to defer the plans was criticised by many within the town, who felt the plan should have been approved no matter what the design.

One supporter of the scheme wrote to the Council saying: “By not granting permission for this much needed re development of a run down eyesore brown field site you continue to reinforce the people of Keighley’s dissatisfaction with Bradford Council and its apparent vendetta against Keighley and its redevelopment.”

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At today’s meeting planning officer Stewart Currie said the site had been empty for a lengthy period, and said: “It is a fairly anonymous site, people will drive past it every day without really knowing what is there.

“Looking at the re-designed plans, we consider they address the concerns raised by the committee. There is a better response to how this scheme will fit in to this part of the town centre and is now something that will be positive for Keighley.”

Committee members agreed that the two month delay was worth it, considering it had led to a much improved scheme.

Councillor John Pennington (Cons, Bingley) said: “I think it was great that this application was deferred, it is a good looking scheme now so credit to officers for working hard on this.”

Keighley Town Mayor Peter Corkindale said: “This will make a huge difference to the town centre, it will bring more footfall. The town has been losing footfall hand over fist and we needed to do something about it.”

Will Brook, representing Aldi, said the new design also included more planting and extra electric car charging points.

He added: “We will work to open the new store in 2022, when our existing site in the town will close and be released for another retailer.

“There will be more active frontage on East Parade and better connectivity with the town centre.

“This will be a scheme Keighley can be proud of.”

Councillor Zafar Ali (Cons, Keighley Central) said: “This is a jolly good planning application, it is great that Aldi and our officers have worked together on this.”

Councillor Geoff Reid (Lib Dem, Eccleshill) said: “We were right to do what we did (defer the plan) and we have ended up in the right place.”

Chair Councillor David Warburton (Lab, Wyke) said: “This application comes with the recent news that the Victoria Hotel plan for shops and flats has been approved. It looks as though things are moving on in this area.”

The application was then unanimously approved.

An application containing more detail of the second large retail unit on the site and the drive thru coffee shop will be submitted in the future.