Controversial Tesco proposal looks set for go-ahead

CONTROVERSIAL proposals for a major supermarket on the edge of England’s smallest town have been recommended to get the go-ahead despite a “majority” of opposition.

PROPOSALS for a major supermarket on the edge of England’s smallest town have been recommended for approval despite a “majority” of opposition.

Supermarket giant Tesco’s bid for a new store on the boundary of Manningtree and Lawford has been given the green-light by planning officers at Tendring District Council (TDC).

Councillors will now vote on the plan which has divided opinion in the towns and seen rival protest groups set up opposing and backing the application.

More than 1,000 people have given feedback and Manningtree Town Council, which opposes the plan, has said nearly two thirds of people are opposed. Tesco has said it hopes its revised bid for the food store in Station Road, Lawford, will win over sceptics after it moved the car park “as close to the town centre as possible” to make it more convenient for people wanting to visit other shops.

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But protest group, Stour Community First, has given six separate representations objecting to the application, saying Tesco itself had accepted “there is no retail need” for the new shop in the area.

It has also claimed the Tesco Express in Manningtree would be forced to close, along with High Street shops and the nearby Co-op supermarket and its accompanying Post Office.

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TDC officers admit in their report that “a majority of respondents” are against the store which could create 100 full-time equivalent jobs.

However, they warn councillors the weight of the arguments is more important than the actual number of people either in favour or against.

They have recommended the green-light for the store on the derelict former Railex site, but listed a number of conditions including penalty payments to the council to help it promote economic growth should the work not be phased-in as agreed.

And they have said the popular Tesco Express in Manningtree will have to stay open for at least five more years.

Mark Morsley, chairman of Maningtree4Tesco, handed in the 580-signatuire petition.

He said: “Whilst the supermarket would greatly improve choice for local shoppers, we also believe that it would help to re-energise the town centre by encouraging more people to use other shops and services located there.

“Also, let’s not forget the new jobs that would be created as part of the proposals which will bring this derelict site that is currently an eyesore back into use.”

But Michael Coultharde-Steer, chairman of opposition group Stour Community First, has said: “We have revived the chamber of commerce and are trying to regenerate the High Street but this store will end up taking 10% out of the margins of shops and a lot of them cannot survive in that environment.

“We could end up with just another desolate High Street – some people are in favour of the new store, but it is our view that shoppers will come to Tesco and then go home.”

TDC’s development control committee is due to meet next Tuesday to vote on the application.

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