Hadleigh: Town aims to rebuild bridges after Tesco threat lifts

Hadleigh High Street

Hadleigh High Street - Credit: Andrew Partridge

A new steering group, formed to help rebuild bridges between a district authority and traders in a Suffolk market town, will meet for the first time in January.

Tensions between the Hadleigh business fraternity and Babergh District Council ran high during the past year after the council’s officers recommended an application by Tesco to build a new store on Brett Works close to the town centre.

In November, councillors voted to reject the proposal and the battle recently came to an end when the retail giant announced it would not be appealing the decision.

The purpose of the new steering group – made up of four district councillors, two Hadleigh town councillors, the town clerk and two members of the chamber of commerce – is to establish other uses for the Brett Works site and to come up with a common vision for the future of the town.

The cross-party and community group, which is being led by county and district councillor Brian Riley, will look at Hadleigh’s commercial future alongside key issues such as the fate of former community facility East House.

Mr Riley told the EADT: “We are at a crossroads and we need to be sure that we are all heading down the same path going forward. At the moment, there are too many disparate ideas running around and not enough joined up thinking, and we have never had any synergy running between the different councils and bodies in the town. “We have seen the local development framework, the shadow of Tesco has been lifted and Morrisons has taken up to 30% of the business off the high street – that is where we are now.

“It’s no good saying that Tesco has gone away so everything will be okay. If we want the town to retain its uniqueness, then we have to work on it.”

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According to Mr Riley, the group will “thrash out” ideas for how the town can be shaped both in the short term and for the next 20 years, starting with the future of the High Street.

Hadleigh Chamber of Commerce has been at loggerheads with Babergh’s planning department over the Tesco application. So the group’s president Tony Addison said he was pleased when the council’s chief executive Charlie Adan asked the chamber to be part of the new steering group.

He said: “There are a lot issues surrounding planning for the town where businesses haven’t been involved in the past.

“Given the Brett Works application and the objections, Babergh realised we need to be involved in what the community wants because businesses are an important part of the community.

“Brett Works is one of our major concerns and we want to make sure it’s not earmarked for another supermarket.”

Mike Evans, Babergh’s strategic director for people said the council’s involvement in the group would be “member led”. He told the EADT: “In effect we will be facilitating a conversation between the groups involved.

“The first meeting on January 6 will hopefully be the first of several which will enable us to get conversations going and to move forward together.

“It’s a team effort to bring coherence as to what Hadleigh wants going forward. We (Babergh) are very enthusiastic about it.”

The steering group will be run along the same lines as a group set up in Sudbury a year ago by Babergh’s lead member for economic development, Simon Barrett.

He said: “Because of the Tesco decision, there is a plot of valuable land sitting there in Hadleigh and its future use needs to be resolved quickly.

“The steering group in Sudbury has been taking a strategic look at the town and has already been successful in identifying the problems and getting consensus from all of the various groups involved.

“Hadleigh has many of the same issues and by setting up a cross-party multi organisational group, it should be possible to come up with a common vision of what people would like to see. You can then make the most of the resources you have and come up with the necessary policies to make that vision a reality.

“Hadleigh has a good opportunity now and needs to make it pay.”