COUNCILLORS were left stunned after a report showing the impact of out-of-town shops on east Cheshire’s high streets was revealed – one week after a 2,292sq m out-of-town Lidl was approved.

At a strategic planning board meeting on Wednesday, officers presented the Cheshire East Council authority monitoring report for 2016-17.

It showed that 10.6 per cent of town centre retail units across the borough stood empty in the year, including 13 in Knutsford 48 in Crewe, seven in Nantwich and six in Middlewich.

The report was presented to councillors a week after the northing planning committee approved a new Lidl outside Wilmslow - where it showed 26 town centre shops were empty in the town, and a further seven in neighbouring Handforth.

Cllr Toni Fox, independent member for Wilmslow Dean Row, said: “We are approving more retail units that are outside of town centres.

“This report shows that by doing that we are reducing the effectiveness of our town centres, converting them into ghost towns.

“This needs to be a consideration by the planning officers for every planning application that comes to their desk.”

Adrian Fisher, head of planning strategy, told Cllr Fox that the report is made available to developers and the public online, and it is up to them how they use the information.

But Cllr Barry Burkhill, independent member for Handforth, said he believed planning officers and developers are not ‘acting on the information presented to them’.

He pointed out that residents and local councillors insisted the 2,292sq m Lidl set for Summerfields Village could have a negative impact on Wilmslow and Handforth’s centres – and that the report validates their concerns.

“This shows a significant reduction in town centre [retail] usage and an astonishing three-fold increase in out-of-centre locations,” he said.

“There is a £25 million per annum trading and expenditure deficit in Wilmslow town centre. Both town centres rely on the up to date council policies to defend them, and they do not.

“It should be considered that this report direct the development management to consider this being a material consideration in determining planning applications and developers being advised accordingly.”

Officers told the committee that while the report provides ‘useful evidence’ of building trends in the borough, it would not be enough to replace planning policies.