Lidl yesterday got the go-ahead to build its first supermarket in Gozo, after the Environment Planning Commission approved a contested permit.

The permit was approved with three votes in favour and one against. Commission member Bjorn Bonello, who voted against, had expressed concern over the traffic plans for the area.

AD deputy chairman and architect Carmel Cacopardo challenged a retail impact report, commissioned by the developer, saying it did not consider the impact on surrounding towns.

“The report is incomplete. It only covers 40 per cent of the impact and I expected the case officer to send it back or recommend a refusal. This is unacceptable,” he said.

The case had been put off in June after the developers were asked to draw up a retail impact report and, earlier, in May, to address safety issues for vehicles entering and leaving the site. One concern was that the large refrigerated trucks transporting supplies to the German supermarket chain might also not be able to manoeuvre within the site, causing further problems.

The chain, which already has five supermarkets in Malta, bought a 4,800-square-metre site, 70 per cent of which falls within the development limits of the Xewkija industrial estate, and the remaining triangular area is outside development.

The supermarket will take up about 50 per cent of the area and the scheduled part will have “soft landscaping” through planting scattered trees.

A sizeable crowd against the development attended the hearing. One pointed out that the impact of Lidl in Gozo was equivalent to another 12 outlets in Malta.

Max Plotnek, from WYP Group, which drew up the retail report, said Lidl offered bulk and generic food shopping and the main impact would be on large stores such as those in the Arkadia and Duke shopping complexes.

The development would have minimal impact on other stores in Gozo and would not lead to any closures, especially since small shops in the villages would serve customers’ daily needs, he added.

However, one shop owner said: “We can’t let these monsters come here as many jobs will be lost. We wait for carnival and Easter for the Maltese to come to Gozo.”

Commission chairman Franco Montesin asked several times during the hearing whether it would have made a difference if the application had been filed by a supermarket other than Lidl.

“If we refuse this application, then we are condemning all supermarkets in Gozo.”

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