London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s meeting with German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel yesterday to assure him that that the British capital remains open to German investment coincided quite deliciously with news emerging that he’s approved plans for German discount supermarket chain Lidl to build a new, improved headquarters in the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames.
Kingston Council gave permission for the £70m development in Tolworth just before Christmas, but because of the size of the venture the mayor’s green light was required. Although all this happened after the EU referendum, Lidl’s plans, which mean it will move from its current, smaller offices in Wimbledon, were being put together long before it.
Brexit, it seems, has not deterred them, a point smartly seized on by the mayor’s deputy for planning, regeneration and skills, Jules Pipe. “This is a clear message that Lidl is confident about its long-term future in London and the UK,” he said. “It is also a positive move for Outer London and shows that major investment doesn’t have to be confined to the centre of the capital.”
The new HQ will be built on land purchased from the Conservative-run council for £10m, which was previously home to a motorcycle track popular with children. As part of the planning deal, Lidl will pay for improvements to local bus services and pedestrian and cycle access to the site as well as over 300 car parking spaces. Some Tolworth residents have expressed concern about an increase in traffic, but the promise of 5,000 new jobs being created seems to have been more welcome.
The Lidl HQ is not the only development plan to get the go-ahead from mayor Khan lately: he’s also rubber-stamped the much bigger project to demolish the heart of Kingston town centre and replace its with a much grander retail complex. Not everyone is happy about that, with complaints being made about a lack of affordable housing and lack of fit with the town’s architectural scale and character. Perhaps we’ll return to that some other time.