Supermarket move backed by retailers
BUSINESS chiefs last night warmly welcomed news that one of the “big four” supermarket giants will soon be moving into the heart of a Suffolk market town.
Proposals to redevelop a derelict site in Church Street, Saxmundham, were yesterday given the green light by Suffolk Coastal District Council.
Members of the North Area Control Sub-Committee were unanimous in their support for the plans, which will see four retail units and 146 car parking spaces created on land opposite the existing Waitrose store.
Developers Reef Estates confirmed at the meeting that an agreement was already in place for one of the “big four” supermarkets - either Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda or Morrisons - to move into the largest unit, which would offer a sales area of 1,420 sq m.
But director Stewart Deering said he could not say which retail giant it would be.
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He told the meeting the development would stimulate the local economy, providing 165 full and part time jobs for the town, which also has a Co-op.
In 1997 opponents successfully fought plans for a Tesco store to be built on the outskirts of Saxmundham on land close to the A12.
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District councillor Marian Andrews was part of that campaign but told yesterday’s meeting she was only too happy to back the latest application.
She said a lot of people in Saxmundham currently choose to shop at larger stores in Martlesham or Lowestoft and hoped that any new development would encourage them to stay in the town, benefiting local retailers.
“I think another supermarket would make a good foil to Waitrose and is very much wanted by a large number of people,” she said. “I objected to the Tesco application because it was the wrong site - if it had been in the centre of town I would have had no objection.”
Her views have been echoed by members of the local community.
Bob Foyers, who runs the Bistro at the Deli and is chairman of Businesses of Saxmundham (BOS), said his members were split 50/50 but he was personally in favour.
“My own belief is that its the best thing for the town,” he said. “Waitrose has been fantastic but there are those who decide to shop outside Saxmundham. Hopefully this will keep people here to do their shopping - it might also attract others from neighbouring towns such as Leiston or Aldeburgh. My biggest concern is about the traffic.”
Robin Potter, director of the Saxmundham and District Community Interest Company, said: “The general feeling is that people are anxious to see something that compliments the existing Waitrose store.
“It’s better to have a development like that in the centre of town rather than on the edge because it will bring people in, which is what has happened following Waitrose.”
Rose Damiral-White, chairman of the planning committee for Saxmundham Town Council, said she was delighted the development had been given the go-ahead as it would be a massive improvement on the current site and provide much needed facilities and car parking.
But Lady Caroline Cranbbrook, of nearby Great Glemham, who has won nationwide plaudits campaigning for small retailers and food suppliers, said she was concerned.
Lady Caroline was a central figure in opposing the plans by Tesco in 1997 and carried out a survey of local food shops.
“It is far too much retailing for that area,” she said. “There is evidence to show that Waitrose has had a very serious impact on local shops and I think another supermarket would be devastating - not just on Saxmundham but on the surrounding area and village shops, which in turn will impact on suppliers and producers.”
Representatives from Tesco and Morrisons were both unavailable for comment last night but a spokesman for Asda confirmed they would not be moving to Saxmundham, while a spokeswoman for Sainsbury’s said they were interested in locating a smaller store in the town, although nothing had been agreed so far.
Meanwhile Ipswich Central has written to Government in a bid to get them to stop Tesco opening a new store in the town's Grafton Way.
The plans for the former B&Q site were given the go ahead by the borough council earlier this month but retailers feel the development is inappropriate and could harm trade.