Hadleigh: Council departments clash over Tesco impact on town

Tesco Hadleigh

Tesco Hadleigh - Credit: Archant

A bid by Tesco to build a superstore in a Suffolk town has taken a new twist - with economic experts and planners at the same council clashing over whether it should go-ahead.

Economic development officers at Babergh District Council warn a new Tesco in Hadleigh could have a “negative” impact on the town’s High Street trade.

But the same authority’s planning chiefs have recommended the retail giant’s application to build on the former Brett Works is approved.

It is the latest in a string of controversies over bids by Tesco to create stores in Suffolk - which have included sites in Aldeburgh and Felixstowe.

Last night, people campaigning against the Hadleigh scheme, who have commissioned several independent expert reports, said they were “deeply concerned” - claiming planning officers had ignored the possible impact the development could have on the town’s economy.

In Babergh’s report, due to be discussed at a meeting next Wednesday, the council’s own economic development team states: “On balance, our view is the additional benefits created by a Tesco food store do not outweigh the impact on the high street and the wider economy and (we) consider that approval would have a negative effect on the sustainability and vitality of Hadleigh town centre.”

The East of England Co-op, which has had a presence in Hadleigh for more than a century, has also objected to the application on the same grounds.

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In the report, the company comments: “The retail statement submitted with the (Tesco) planning application has no regard to any analysis of the Morrisons store and the combined effect on the viability and vitality of the town centre.”

The council’s development officers maintain that the planning framework does not require the applicants to “demonstrate a need” for their proposed food store. In the report, they say absence of an identified need for the development is “not of itself valid grounds for refusal”.

But local shopkeepers say the evidence speaks for itself.

Just days before the controversial application is due to be decided, town centre trader Stephen Ellis, who owns Mixers Retail Ltd (known locally as The Beer Barrel) has announced he has taken the decision to shut his doors for good.

He said: “I can confirm as a local shopkeeper that due to the opening of Morrisons last January and the present economic climate, our business is no longer viable and will be closing at the end of this month.

“Even without Tesco in the town there is insufficient spending capacity locally to support the amount of retail floor area presently available, and we are just the tip of the iceberg.”

In response to a Hadleigh Chamber of Commerce survey this week, the owners of Crabtrees High Street café said they would be have to close, with the loss of nine jobs, if the Tesco application is approved.

Co-owner Carl Leach said since Morrisons came to town, the cafe had seen footfall drop by 30% and turnover has been cut by 25%.

Babergh declined to comment on the case ahead of next week’s meeting. No-one from Tesco was available to speak to the EADT about the application.