Few winners as superstore saga reaches decision day

Preferred site - land next to Felixstowe railway station where permission is being sought for a 30,0

Preferred site - land next to Felixstowe railway station where permission is being sought for a 30,000sq ft superstore. - Credit: Archant

Tomorrow is D-day in Felixstowe’s long-running superstore saga – a day when there will be few smiles and plenty of long faces.

Councillors will gather to cast their votes for and against the three proposals, with planning officers recommending the go-ahead for the project on the site off Railway Approach.

Councillors could, of course, go against their officers’ advice and still vote for Tesco at Walton Green, or even the Asda at Haven Exchange.

Whichever way the vote goes, people will be unhappy about it, with only the winning developer celebrating.

It would be surprising if all three were rejected – especially as that would herald a costly public inquiry.

An appeal and inquiry could still not be ruled out whichever one is chosen, but success at appeal would seem less likely for either of the two losers if the other project were approved as everyone now seems agreed that one superstore will be enough.

There are opponents who still question whether the town needs a superstore at all.

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People can already buy groceries at the Co-op, Morrisons, Lidl, Tesco, Iceland, Marks and Spencer and a host of smaller Spar, Co-ops and corner shops without travelling out of town.

Those wanting to build say a new store is necessary to “claw back” money being spent in stores on the edge of Ipswich.

The figures they pronounce are huge – more than £10m. However, I am not convinced about this “claw back” – how does Tesco clawing back £12m benefit Felixstowe when that money (much of which is already spent in Tesco’s Martlesham Heath store) just disappears into Tesco’s bank account?

Planners say the increase in Felixstowe’s population through the building of nearly 2,000 homes in the next 15 years means there is a need for a new store and have come to the conclusion that the Railway Approach site is the lesser of all evils.

They say all three proposals would harm the town centre but the railway site, being closer to Hamilton Road, would at least provide the opportunity for people to also do some extra shopping in town.

That is utter rubbish. Not withstanding the walk across two car parks and through Great Eastern Square just to reach the top end of Hamilton Road, most people will use a superstore for their big shop and be heading straight back home – especially if they have bought frozen goods.