LEISTON: Opinions divided as Tesco plans revealed

PROPOSALS for a large supermarket in a Suffolk town have gone under the microscope at a public exhibition.

Last night Tesco said of those who registered an opinion, two-thirds backed their plans for the store in Abbey Road, Leiston – although local residents have questioned that claim.

The retail giant revealed last month it wanted to build a new 20,000 sq ft supermarket and business park next to Jewson.

It says the development will generate about 200 jobs and offer six high-quality units for new or existing businesses.

People had a chance to see the plans and ask questions at a public exhibition held at Leiston United Church at the end of last week.

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But while Tesco claims the response was overwhelmingly positive, there are those in the town who are worried about the impact a new store could have on smaller retailers.

Sheena Grant, of Carr Avenue, Leiston, said: “Many people in Leiston are totally opposed to the idea of a superstore on the outskirts of the town because it would destroy the area and its independent retailers.

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“Far from giving people choice, it would destroy choice.

“The beauty of Leiston is that it is quirky – a one-off town where there is no Tesco or any other edge-of-town superstore.

“Unlike most high streets in Britain today, there are independent retailers and interesting stores, something that will be lost forever if the Tesco machine marches into town crushing everything before it.

“I attended the exhibition for about an hour and would say 90% of the people there during that time were appalled at the idea of a Tesco invasion.”

Tesco has pledged to continue to engage with residents and will also consult with the local business community before finalising the proposals and submitting a planning application to Suffolk Coastal District Council at the end of January.

Jonny Newton, chairman of Leiston Business Association, said members would be meeting with bosses on Tuesday to discuss the plans in greater detail.

“It is important that we find out what they want to do and how they are going to help the town centre,” he said.

“The high street is our main concern.”

Tesco has said it will set up a partnership with Jobcentre Plus, in Sizewell Road, to provide training and support for people wanting interviews, while the store would also have a community champion, an employee who identifies local needs, develops initiatives and supports local organisations.

Keith Garlick, who lives in Leiston, said: “This project would help kick-start the town’s economy.

“It would also save many local people travelling 20miles to Martlesham [where there is a large Tesco store] and give those without cars a better choice. It would also provide much-needed employment.”

Louise Gosling, Tesco corporate affairs manager, added: “Hundreds of people came to our exhibition and many told us they couldn’t wait for a new supermarket to come to the town.

“Local people have told us they want more jobs and investment brought to the town, as well as the convenience a new store would bring.”

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