East Suffolk: Row brewing as Tesco plans two new stores

CAMPAIGNERS are hitting out at a retail giant’s plans to open two new supermarkets in Suffolk just miles apart.

Tesco has begun public consultation into a proposed new store at Abbey Road, Leiston, which will bring more than 200 jobs to the area.

Suffolk Coastal MP Dr Therese Coffey is meeting with Leiston Business Association today to discuss the plans for the 20,000 sq ft Tesco store.

But campaigners are questioning the need for a new shop less than eight miles from the site of the planned store in Saxmundham, which got the green light from the council in April.

The proposals also come hot on the heels of a public inquiry which ruled out a new store for Halesworth on the grounds it would damage local shops.

Tesco corporate affairs manager Louise Gosling said: “Our research shows people in Leiston are travelling outside the town to do their shopping.

“We want to offer the convenience and the range of goods that a supermarket can. We see it as a good development for the town and we hope it will be welcomed.

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“We will offer to meet anyone with concerns and we will listen to what they have to say.”

Residents will get a chance to examine the plans in detail at a public exhibition on November 26 and 27 at Leiston United Church in High Street, and their views will be taken into account before a planning application is made in the New Year.

Assuming there are no hold-ups, that could mean construction beginning as early as autumn 2011.

Lady Caroline Cranbrook, of Great Glemham, has been a vocal campaigner on rural issues for many years.

“It might seem good in the short term but the long term disadvantages for the area are quite serious,” she said. “It will undermine the local food economy because we have a huge number of food producers in this area and they rely on local independent shops.

“I’m not against supermarkets - they have driven up standards and choice - but they do the most damage when we have too many of them. If we end up with Tesco in Saxmundham and another in Leiston, it will have a devastating effect.

“There is only so much demand available, so people who would have shopped at their local shop or farm shop will be tempted to go and do it at Tesco.

“By having a kind of monopoly, you reduce choice for consumers and it reduces the opportunities for people to work in the food industry.”

The plans would also include six other shops behind the store.