IT HAS been one of the most talked about and most controversial plans in Southampton’s recent history.

The proposals have attracted more than 90 letters of objection, sparked a campaign and even been at the heart of a £15,000 council probe.

But last night, Lidl’s controversial plans for a new supermarket on Shirley High Street were rejected.

Councillors threw out the plans for fear of the impact on neighbouring residents.

One councillor even suggested the new store would look like a “70 metre prison wall” to those whose gardens back onto the site.

But Lidl also took the opportunity to defend its plans.

Regional property chief James Mitchell said the new store, replacing the retailer’s current Shirley site, would create a “bigger and better” supermarket, as well as an 20 extra jobs.

He added that Lidl had done its “level best” to appease concerns and promised a £500,000 investment in the area’s road network - which he said went “above and beyond” what was required of the chain.

As a result, he said the decision by city planning bosses to recommend refusal had left the company “extremely frustrated”.

Mr Mitchell said: “Because of that frustration, we have been questioning our own sanity trying to work out what exactly we’ve missed.”

He said that Lidl had already consulted one of the country’s top planning barristers - who had “made his feelings clear” about the company’s chance at an appeal.

But the plans once again faced strong opposition, with residents, campaigners and councillors rallying against the proposals.

Millbrook councillor Mike Denness stepped down from his role as chairman of the planning panel to speak against the plans.

He also left the room during the debate, after being at the centre of a council-funded probe into his conduct over the plans – for which he was cleared of any wrongdoing.

Councillor Denness urged members to listen to the concerns of officers.

He also raised concerns about the impact on residents, traffic problems and the building’s design.

Steve Galton, who led a campaign to save a yew tree, which Lidl planned to chop down before changing its plans, asked the panel to raise objections not only to the impact on residents, but also on the roads.

Councillors considered the added objection, with temporary chairman John Savage saying extra traffic on the new store could cause “mayhem” on nearby Heysham Road.

But the panel were steered away by planning chiefs, who said this could be compensated by an extra £75,000 Section 106 package offered by Lidl.

Councillors then sided with officers and rejected plans over concerns for the impact of neighbouring residents – with five out of six of the panel backing the recommendations.

Councillor Nigel Hecks abstained and raised fears of a “costly” appeal battle with Lidl if the committee rejected the plans.

Mr Mitchell referred the Daily Echo to the Lidl press office for a comment last night.