Battle won, but it’s a long war ahead

An artist's impression of the new Tesco superstore at Walton Green - villagers in Trimley St Mary ar

An artist's impression of the new Tesco superstore at Walton Green - villagers in Trimley St Mary are worried about the traffic the development will generate. - Credit: Archant

THAT’S certainly put the cat among the pigeons.

The town council’s decision to reject the Tesco superstore scheme was emphatic – and certainly delighted campaigners fighting to stop the development going ahead.

Councillor Andy Smith was the only dissenting voice, believing – unlike his colleagues – that the store is needed and will not have a big impact on the town centre.

I thought the vote would be closer, and wasn’t entirely sure which way it would go.

The debate highlighted the very real fears most councillors have about the impact a 30,000sq ft Tesco will have on the town centre, and Walton High Street, and are definitely not convinced by the supermarket giant’s arguments.

When Tesco says it will claw back £10million to Felixstowe, mayor Mike Deacon hit the nail on the head when he said yes, it would – to be “siphoned off into Tesco’s coffers”. Not exactly money to benefit Felixstowe.

When Tesco asserts that people will stay in Felixstowe to buy the items the new store at Walton Green does not stock, the mayor was scathing, saying “dream on”, and deputy mayor Jan Garfield said that was not the way people who used superstores shopped.

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Spot on again. As a shopper, there is no way I will go to Walton Green, become exasperated at not being able to buy everything I want and then drive into the town centre or potter along Walton High Street to see if I can find goods missing from my trolley. If the store doesn’t stock all I need, I will drive past it and out of Felixstowe to one that does. That’s modern shopping in a busy lifestyle.

We buy our meat, eggs, milk and fruit locally, but Felixstowe doesn’t have the stores for all the extra goods Tesco says we will be buying. Tesco says: this is the town centre’s opportunity to provide them.

Problem is we just don’t have the shops to do that. And nowhere to build new ones. Candler’s, our biggest is about to become a restaurant, as is another sizeable outlet, the old Select store.

The new Tesco store by its own admission will take £4m out of the town centre – and the footfall which would also visit other shops.

Graham Newman also raised the spectre of internet shopping – set to have an increasing and massive impact on our towns.

Of course, there is a long way to go yet – and Suffolk Coastal will make the next big decision.

If it’s a second refusal, Tesco may modify its plans to overcome objections or go to appeal.

A battle may have been won, but it could be a long war – and Tesco will win it in the end.