Go ahead for Tesco

IPSWICh: The town is set to get a new Tesco superstore after it won the support of the borough by the narrowest margin possible.

Members of the borough’s development and planning committee voted 6-7 – along party lines – to approve proposals for a �70 million regeneration project on Grafton Way.

At the heart of the proposal is a massive new Tesco superstore – but it also includes 129 flats, two hotels, and other shops and cafes.

The decision will now have to be sent to the Government Office of the East of England (Go-East) for final approval.

That could be delayed by the general election – but Tesco are hoping to be able to start work on the site in September and have the superstore ready to open its doors by Christmas 2011.

The approval was given in the teeth of strong opposition from both the Ipswich Society and Ipswich Central – which represents hundreds of businesses in the heart of the town.

And while all the Labour members on the committee voted to reject the proposal, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats eventually voted in favour.

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There was some confusion when the councillor responsible for planning on the council’s executive, Richard Atkins, originally abstained before it was confirmed there could be further discussions about allowing free car parking on the site.

He eventually joined other members of the administration in backing the proposal.

Planning consultant Martin Robeson, who had been employed by Tesco’s regeneration army Spenhill to prepare the case, said the new store would be about the same size as Sainsbury’s at Warren Heath.

It was central to regenerating a run-down area of the town’s waterfront.

Mike Cook from the Ipswich Society said the proposal would damage the town centre and would also increase congestion and general traffic problems throughout the town centre.

And Chris Goldsmith whose company Turnstone Estates is hoping to redevelop the Westgate Centre said approval for Tesco would prevent any further major retail developments in the town for years ahead.

Conservative councillor Judy Terry welcomed the application: “So far as I am concerned this is a wonderful opportunity to regenerate a run-down area of the town. It is just what the town needs.”

Labour councillor Sandy Martin warned that Tesco would drain business away from town centre stores: “I am also worried that it will attract shoppers with cars and it will make it even more difficult for those who do not drive.

“I cannot see how this fits in with our planning guidelines,” he said.

Do you welcome the new Tesco? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk