Long way to go in resort’s store wars

PROPOSALS for a food superstore on land once occupied by sidings at Felixstowe’s railway station may have put a big spanner in the works.

Before it was just the threat or promise – depending whether you are for or against it – of a new 30,000 sq ft Tesco.

Now there are set to be two projects of similar size on the table.

Looking at both ideas in very broad terms, surely Albourne Properties’ plans for the station land would get the nod ahead of those being finalised for Walton Green.

The railway site is brownfield land, a derelict site crying out to be developed, close to the town centre, the kind of project councils support, while Tesco’s is greenfield, farmland producing much-needed food, and out of town, viewed less favourably.

It’s not as straightforward as that though.

Much will depend on timing – Tesco expect their application to go in next month, while Albourne Properties are way behind and not ready with their scheme yet – and it is unlikely to be simple choice between the two.

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One suspects we won’t get both either. The chamber of trade argues that the town already has enough supermarket floorspace, and while Suffolk Coastal would allow more, both schemes provide far too much on their own, let alone together.

Backers of the Tesco project are unfazed by the appearance of a rival.

They firmly believe their project is best placed to capture the spending at large out-of-town stores by the good people of Felixstowe, the Trimleys and Kirton who currently head to Martlesham Tesco or Sainsburys Warren Heath or will soon try the new Cranes Waitrose.

The Walton Green Partnership has put a huge amount of work into its plans to satisfy the public’s concerns, and believe the Tesco development will help Walton High Street’s butcher, baker and chemist by drawing people into the area.

The railway station store – no chain has been signed up yet, with the highest bidder expected to get it when (and if) planning permission is ever granted – is close to the town centre but not quite in it.

There are doubts over whether those people who would use it would actually visit Hamilton Road, too.

The store will be built at the Garrison Lane end of the site – and that’s a pretty long way for most people to leave their car and walk.

Shoppers just want more choice – many people I have spoken to would like both, and are hoping for an Asda/Sainsbury and a Tesco.

It’s going to be an interesting few months as more details and plans emerge – Felixstowe’s “store wars” are a long from being settled yet.

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