'Ghost town' fears for Stowmarket

TRADERS say their community is in danger of becoming a ghost town and moves by supermarket giant to expand on the edge of town will not help.Mid Suffolk District Council is considering whether to grant planning permission for the supermarket in Stowmarket to develop its operation on Cedars Park.

John Howard

TRADERS say their community is in danger of becoming a ghost town and moves by supermarket giant to expand on the edge of town will not help.

Mid Suffolk District Council is considering whether to grant planning permission for the supermarket in Stowmarket to develop its operation on Cedars Park.

The extension at the site in the middle of a major new housing development would create more than 50 new jobs at the store, which wants to offer a wider range in areas including books, clothing and toys.

But Stowmarket Town Council has called for the planning application to be refused and traders are also worried.

Pam Shepherd, owner of Tuckers independent sandwich bar with her husband Paul, said: “The town does not need this, we want to see the empty shops open again so that people are enticed into Stowmarket.

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“We need smaller businesses, independents, and a few smaller chains like Next. I worry for our community and think it has become a ghost town, it is becoming harder and harder for small businesses to survive.

“A large Tesco's will not help attract people in. We also do not need any more charity shops, building societies or banks.”

Elsie Webb, a general assistant at Johnsons cleaning business in the town centre, said: “We need more small shops, little independents like they have in Needham Market.”

But Frank Whittle, town mayor, said he was disgusted that his colleagues on the town council had recommended the superstore expansion plans be rejected.

Mr Whittle said: “This will not take anything away from Stowmarket and people shopping there may then come into the centre to spend their money here too.

“Tesco's was built to cater for 700 homes, now there are going to be 2,100 when they finish at Cedars Park. The store is too small, there are queues, and people might go to Ipswich or Bury St Edmunds and then shop in those communities.”

A spokesman for Tesco said they want to enhance the range of goods sold from the store, increasing choice for its customers, improving store layout, and facilities.

He said: “The restricted size of the store at present has also resulted in narrow aisles and limited checkout space, discouraging shoppers from spending time there.”

Tesco hope to build an extension, a new mezzanine floor with a coffee shop and toilets, as well as developing existing areas to increase the gross over all size of the store from 4,049 square metres gross to 5,562.

Mid Suffolk District Council expects to reach a decision on the planning application during the summer.

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