Council backs traders' supertsore fears

By Richard SmithA TOWN council has thrown its weight behind shopkeepers in an effort to stop their trade being threatened by the proposed expansion of a superstore.

By Richard Smith

A TOWN council has thrown its weight behind shopkeepers in an effort to stop their trade being threatened by the proposed expansion of a superstore.

Tesco wants to enlarge its in Martlesham Heath by more than 20,000 sq ft, offering a larger range of non-food products and a dedicated area for co-ordinating its Internet home delivery service.

The company said the expansion was not contrary to national and local policies, and added the redevelopment would not harm the vitality and viability of Woodbridge town centre.

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But town councillors disagreed and they have joined forces with Martlesham Parish Council to express concerns about the possible adverse impact on small businesses.

They were particularly worried that Tesco wanted to increase the floorspace for comparison goods to 30% of the area.

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Comparison products are non-food items that people seek to find bargains on and a survey in Woodbridge showed 17 shops already sold products that Tesco wanted to introduce.

Shopkeepers fear Tesco will become a "one-stop shop" where customers buy all their purchases and that could lead to shops closing in Woodbridge.

A town council planning committee meeting has expressed concern about the detrimental effect on the historic market town.

The original outline planning consent for Tesco stated only 10% of the whole retail area could be used for non-food items and Woodbridge Town Council felt that restriction should remain unchanged.

"It is very concerned that the proposed extension of the area will adversely affect local businesses. The general increase in traffic due to the expansion of the store resulting in related problems on surrounding roads and in the car park is a matter of concern," said the council.

Suffolk Coastal District Council has received numerous objections to the Tesco expansion from traders and the chamber of commerce in Woodbridge.

Penny Moon, a town councillor, said in a letter to the district council: "Increasing the range would have an adverse effect on the small, individual shops in Woodbridge which are not in a position to compete with such a large supermarket."

A Tesco spokesman said: "We want to offer existing customers even more than we are doing, rather than drag thousands more customers in.

"It is not just about putting more things on the shelves, but making it easier to get around the store, make it more spacious and make the whole trip more pleasant and enjoyable."

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