Disaster zone or big opportunity?

WHAT is the impact of building a superstore in your community? Residents in a sleepy Suffolk market town can't agree if it will boost the town's economy or drain its character, and today the two camps see hardly any common ground.

WHAT is the impact of building a superstore in your community? Residents in a sleepy Suffolk market town can't agree if it will boost the town's economy or drain its character, and today the two camps see hardly any common ground. REBECCA LEFORT presents both sides of Hadleigh's great debate.

ARE supermarkets really super?

It is a question which starkly divides communities, and whips both ferocious opposition and ardent support, often in equal measure. Does allowing a food giant a foothold in a town gradually push out smaller stores, or does it encourage more business opportunities by bringing in more shoppers?

In Hadleigh the argument is still raging, with both sides claiming the moral high ground and the popular support of fellow residents.

And as Tesco prepares to submit plans to build a store on the town's Brett Works site this month the issue is growing in urgency.

The mega chain has hoped for nearly a decade to build a shop on the site but has been thwarted on various occasions and forced to make alterations to their original proposals.

Most Read

Now it plans to submit detailed proposals to Babergh District Council by the end of January.

Michael Kissman, corporate affairs manager for Tesco, said: “We're hoping the application can go in as soon as possible. We have to wait for a yes or no but presuming we get the decision, we could start building at the end of 2008 or the beginning of 2009.”

Tesco is now the largest British retailer by both global sales and domestic market share, and is the world's third-largest retailer, behind Wal-Mart of the United States and Carrefour of France.

It controls just over 30 per cent of the UK's grocery market and in 2007 it announced more than £2.55billion in profits.

Tesco was founded by Jack Cohen in 1919 when he began to sell surplus groceries from a stall in the East End of London. The name Tesco was chosen because Mr Cohen brought a shipment of tea from T E Stockwell so he combined the supplier's name (TES) with the first letters of his surname.

The first Tesco store opened in North London in 1929 and the supermarket originally focused on food but has since expanded into clothes, electronics, financial services, selling and renting DVDs, internet services, telecoms, health insurance, dental plans, budget software and the property market.

Do you want to see a Tesco in Hadleigh? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

In early 1999 Tesco first submitted proposals to build a supermarket in Hadleigh.

In September of that year the town's council held a referendum. The results were interpreted as showing 75 per cent of people in the town wanted a supermarket, but 60pc felt the Brett Works site in the town centre, which Tesco was proposing to build on, was not suitable.

The town council and Babergh District Council then rejected Tesco's application and the mega-company appealed. In November 2000 a public enquiry into Tesco bid and a plan by Buyright to build another supermarket in the town began and in September 2001 both were rejected.

The planning inspector accepted the need for a supermarket but rejected the Tesco proposal on the grounds that the building was of an unsuitable design and the road access was not suitable.

In December 2003 Tesco launched another proposal for the same site but did not submit a detailed planning application. Its plan was included in Babergh District Council's local plan and came under scrutiny once again when a government inspector looked at the local plan.

In November 2005 the inspector's report on the local plan was published, backing the bid for a Tesco in Hadleigh and on that site. Tesco is now expected that submit full planning application.

NINE years ago the Tesco Supporters Group of Hadleigh was formed in an effort to highlight the views of those that wanted to see the superstore in the town.

Its chairman Roydon Smith said he was convinced the benefits the shop could bring to the town far outweighed the arguments against it and that the plans were essential for the future of Hadleigh.

He said: “At the moment there is not enough choice in the town, we only have the Co-op, so we hope some competition will drive down prices and allow people more choice.

“It won't result in businesses closing because the butchers and similar specialist shops are already well-established with customers.

“And actually a Tesco in Hadleigh is likely to bring a lot more people into the town who might choose to make a day of it and use the other shops too. We can only see benefits coming out of this.”

Retired Mr Smith, of Magdalen Road, said figures showed the majority of townsfolk were behind the plans along with his campaign group.

“The people against developments always get their voices heard the loudest in these types of arguments around the country,” said Mr Smith.

“But actually often that is the minority view and in the case of Hadleigh about three quarters of people do want Tesco to come here. Every concern has been checked along the way and there have been lots of negotiations. We've had surveys on traffic, on flora and fauna and every time they have concluded the location is suitable and it will actually improve the wildlife in the area. From an environmental point of view it could help because currently people are driving to Copdock but that would stop. Hadleigh is growing, and to keep growing it needs Tesco.”

JOHN Bloomfield, chairman of the Hadleigh Society, which is formally opposed to the bid to build a Tesco on the Brett Works site, was born in the town and has lived there ever since.

He believes that building the giant shop would destroy the fabric of the historic town he loves.

“Hadleigh has a whole series of listed buildings and a splendid High Street, if they put a supermarket here it would increase the amount of traffic and alter the character of the town itself,” he said. “Hadleigh is a very special place which is being swept aside by people who see a Tesco as nothing more than a way to make money. I feel that the Co-op and the Buyright store is enough for Hadleigh.”

Former squadron leader Bloomfield added that his campaign was 'a Herculean task' as he was up against a major company with stores across the country.

He added: “I've always been on the side of David in the David against Goliath clash. I'm trying to stop what I think of as the 'Tescofication' of the country because I think Tesco is becoming far too big and with too much power.

“I think we have enough choice in Hadleigh at the moment. We have managed to fend off the supermarket until now and the town is thriving as a consequence at the moment.”

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter