Tesco expansion bid set to be thrown out

SUPERMARKET giant Tesco's bid to build a major extension to one of its out-of-town stores looks set to be thrown out because of fears of the impact on town centre shops.

John Howard

SUPERMARKET giant Tesco's bid to build a major extension to one of its out-of-town stores looks set to be thrown out because of fears of the impact on town centre shops.

Mid Suffolk District Council is considering whether to grant planning permission for Tesco to develop its operation on the large Cedars Park estate in Stowmarket, where hundreds of new homes have been built.

The extension at the site in the middle of a major new housing development would create 56 new jobs at the store, which has long wanted to offer a wider range in areas including books, clothing and toys.

But officers at the authority are recommending the plans are thrown out, arguing that new development should be within town centres.

Pam Shepherd, who owns of Tuckers independent sandwich bar with her husband Paul in the town centre, said support needed to be given to smaller businesses.

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She said: “Trade in the town is dead and morale is on the floor. We need more shops in the town centre and people to stop shopping in Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds.

“I am struggling and I am not surprised Tesco's are likely to be turned down.”

Both the Stowmarket Society and the town council have also called for the plans to be refused, fearing the viability of the town centre will be harmed, and smaller traders will suffer.

But members of the Cedars Park Residents' Association asked shoppers at the site recently what they thought of the plans and within four hours they had collected more than 480 signatures supporting the expansion.

Residents on the estate on the outskirts of the community rely on Tesco as the only commercial facility near their homes.

Roger Willison-Gray, chairman of the association, said: “The council argues that we should all be made to shop where they tell us to.

“They want us all to go into the town, but on that basis there would be no facilities elsewhere, it's ridiculous.

“All that will happen is that we will all continue to drive to Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds for the bigger stores. It's stupid, they have taken no notice of very strong opinions from people live there. The council is being quite cavalier.”

A spokesman for Tesco said: “We would expect any extension to bring more people to Stowmarket and therefore bring further economic benefits to the area and potential opportunities to other traders.

“It's a long way to drive to Bury St Edmunds or Ipswich and we want to provide the sort of new food and non-food ranges we know people expect from us.”

Peter Goodyear, a senior planning officer with the council, said if Tesco got the go-ahead it would undermine the regeneration of the town.

Councillors on Mid Suffolk District Council's planning committee will meet on Wednesdayto debate the expansion.

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