D-Day for Asda superstore vote at Felixstowe – planners and councillors to cross swords

An area of vacant land at the Haven Exchange in Felixstowe could be used for a new 20,000sq ft ASda

An area of vacant land at the Haven Exchange in Felixstowe could be used for a new 20,000sq ft ASda store and filling station. - Credit: Archant

Community leaders and their planning officers will cross swords on Monday as proposals for a new £18million superstore in Felixstowe reach their final hurdle.

Councillors have already gone against their expert officers’ advice in deciding they would like to see the 20,000sq ft Asda store – which could provided up to 160 new jobs – approved and now it is crunch time.

Because Suffolk Coastal’s south area development management sub committee gave the go-ahead against policy, the final decision must be made by the parent committee, giving officers one last chance to try to persuade councillors to refuse it.

Councillors have already approved one superstore at Railway Approach. No work though has started because of an unresolved High Court challenge by the East of England Co-operative Society.

The Asda plan proposes using a 4.6acre site at Haven Exchange, opposite Dock Gate One, for a supermarket plus filling station.

Planners believe it is too early to write off the railway station site and argue that Felixstowe only needs one extra store – and allowing two could cause “unacceptable harm” to the town centre.

However, Felixstowe Chamber of Trade and Commerce is supporting the Asda project and feels it could help keep shoppers in the town who currently travel to Ipswich and Martlesham for their main shop.

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It said: “The Langer Road area is known to be in need of regeneration and the prospect of more traffic between the town centre and Haven Exchange may well encourage improvement in this area as businesses begin to see the merit in locating between a supermarket which attracts people into the area.

“The provision of a fuel station is of significant benefit to the town, offering competition and the opportunity for Felixstowe residents to benefit from a supermarket known to be extremely competitive in fuel pricing.”

Planning officers have taken legal advice and are still recommending refusal of the Asda.

Head of planning Philip Ridley said: “Given the lack of identified need for a second store within the (local) plan period, should the Haven Exchange store be approved, there is the very real prospect that the Railway Approach site will remain undeveloped and this is a critical site for development in terms of town centre improvements and the visual improvement at a key prominent location.

“Likewise, should the application be refused then the Haven Exchange site may remain vacant and undeveloped. These two sites are both prominent sites which the council would wish to see developed and therefore this is a significant matter to be weighted by members in their determination of this application.”