Fears over new Tesco

SUPERMARKET giant Tesco will launch plans for a new store in Suffolk next week - amid fears it could “devastate” many of the area's food producers and small shops.

Craig Robinson

SUPERMARKET giant Tesco will launch plans for a new store in Suffolk next week - amid fears it could “devastate” many of the area's food producers and small shops.

It wants to open a major store in Halesworth, and will submit its application to Waveney District Council on Monday.

But last night Lady Caroline Cranbrook, who has won nationwide plaudits campaigning for small retailers and food suppliers in Suffolk, warned its impact could be “crippling”.

She said the store - which would measure 22,000 square feet - would not only devastate retailers in Halesworth but also local food producers in surrounding villages.

She said: “My first thought is that the store is far too big.

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“Our market towns can survive smaller stores - such as the new Waitrose in Saxmundham, they can live quite happily with that. But this would have a crippling effect on the local economy.

“It will threaten the viability of traders in Halesworth and also in the surrounding countryside.

“The impact on the local producers that supply the high street would be devastating.

“We have rather good village shops in places such as Laxfield, Stradbroke and Yoxford -these hinterland villages will all suffer.

“Not just trade but the people who live there as well, individuals who don't necessarily have access to cars.”

Lady Caroline, of Great Glemham, carried out a survey in 1997 when Tesco wanted to open near Saxmundham that involved 81 food shops in seven market towns and 19 villages.

It assessed the possible impact a store might have on the area and a total of 67 traders thought they might close if one opened.

Her work has drawn praise from a number of high profile personalities including chef Gordon Ramsay.

Tesco is also looking at building supermarkets in other towns including Ipswich, Hadleigh and Manningtree.

The store in Halesworth, which has been earmarked for the Angel Link area, would be slightly smaller than the one in Beccles and is expected to provide around 200 jobs.

Tesco also owns land in The Thoroughfare and if the new plans are given the green light there is an agreement to set aside money to help build a community centre on that site or another location.

Nick Gellatly, corporate affairs manager for the supermarket giant, said: “This has been in the pipeline for the best part of a year and we held a public exhibition in October. Since then we have been looking at tackling issues related to the scheme and making changes based on the feedback we received.

“We had hoped to be able to submit a planning application before now but felt we would rather spend time talking to people and get the design right.”

He said the store - which would have free car parking for up to three hours - would offer shoppers greater choice and bring more people into Halesworth.

“I would ask people to look at the example of Beccles,” Mr Gellatly continued: “There were concerns before we opened but they haven't come to fruition. Having Tesco in Beccles has been a benefit to all of the traders because we have brought more people to the town. It will do the same for Halesworth.”

The store has been reduced in height compared to previous designs and will combine a wooden frame, natural materials and new planting and water features to blend in with the rural nature of the area.