Superstore expansion compensation call

TRADERS are hoping to receive improvements worth more than £100,000 for their town centre to compensate for the loss of trade when a superstore builds a huge extension.

By Richard Smith

TRADERS are hoping to receive improvements worth more than £100,000 for their town centre to compensate for the loss of trade when a superstore builds a huge extension.

Suffolk Coastal District Council has decided to back the plight of shopkeepers in Woodbridge and it will be asking Tesco to make a substantial contribution towards enhancement works in the town.

Councillors decided not to put a figure on the amount of compensation they wanted for Woodbridge - but the traders' ''wish list'' is estimated to cost more than £100,000.

Tesco was given permission yesterday for a significant development at Martlesham Heath where it will increase the retail sales area by 48%. Another 127 car parking spaces, new footpaths, infrastructure improvements and landscaping are also planned.

The majority of the extra shopping space will be for the sale of comparison goods including clothing, home entertainment, electrical goods, kitchen and sports equipment and baby accessories - items that are already sold in the centre of Woodbridge.

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Marion Wells, the town centre's co-ordinator, produced a shopping list for the development control sub committee. She said the items were required to enhance Woodbridge to make the town more attractive to shoppers and stop them deserting it in favour of Tesco.

The list includes: extra car parking, better signs, improved pavements for pedestrians in Quayside and Quay Street, a review of the traffic management scheme in the Thoroughfare, more street furniture, closed circuit television cameras, funding for the town centre co-ordinator's job and advertising in Tesco about the attractions of Woodbridge.

Nigel Barratt, town and district councillor, warned the new extension would provide Tesco with an added turnover of £20m a year, based on a weekly sales figure per sq ft of selling space of £22.48.

Cllr Barratt warned it was not just Woodbridge which would suffer the pain of losing trade and other retail centres would be adversely affected.

''Woodbridge in the recent past has experienced significant problems in trading. The recession of the early 90s hit Woodbridge, the opening of the original Tesco at Martlesham in mid 90s hit Woodbridge and the closure of Bentwaters hit Woodbridge.

''The numbers of vacant retail units were more than double what they are today, and few multiple retailers had much interest. These experiences indicate that Woodbridge trading is vulnerable to seismic shock waves such as this proposal, and is likely to be significantly affected.

''However successful Tesco is, it is not yet a divine agency and does not and cannot create new additional sales - it can only take an existing demand away from other retail areas, and Woodbridge is one of the areas which is likely to suffer,'' said cllr Barratt.

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