Superstore impact is the main debate

SO the race to build Felixstowe’s next superstore is under way.

Will we get one or two, or none at all? If the Albourne Property scheme is accepted for Railway Approach, will that automatically mean the veto for Tesco at Walton Green?

As they both provide twice as much supermarket floorspace as the resort needs – according to Suffolk Coastal’s policy for the next 15 years – should both be rejected?

Walton Green is, of course, against policy, while the railway land is brownfield and much the better option for development, but neither makes the outcome a dead cert. Over the next few months all these points will be hotly debated, and it really is quite a complex issue.

The core of the argument will be the impact on the town centre and shops in Walton.

While there is strong opposition, there are just as many people writing on social websites that competition is good for shops and as customers they want more variety and choice in Felixstowe without having to drive to Martlesham and Ipswich.

A Tesco in Walton may reduce footfall in Hamilton Road because it will hit Tesco, Co-op and Iceland, but if you want to buy a gift or secondhand book, visit a charity shop or get clothing or shoes, pop into the bank, opticians or library, then you will still visit the town.

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Both projects are making the same argument for their existence – that it will mean people will not have to travel out of town to shop, and they will end up spending more in local shops by staying at home.

I would say the first part of the case is correct – I would certainly prefer not to drive to Tesco at Martlesham every fortnight to do my main shop, and as long as the superstore stocks everything I buy at my big shop (smoked Bavarian cheese with ham in it is the test) then I will be happy.

But the second part of the argument is utter drivel. Why would not travelling to Asda/Tesco/Waitrose/Sainsbury make you spend more in local shops? We buy our meat, milk, eggs, fruit and many other items in local shops already – and that will not change. We won’t spend more just because Tesco is in Walton rather than Martlesham.

Local shops in Walton will suffer because of the convenience, and initially novelty, of a Tesco in High Road, but the town centre won’t, and the real losers will be Co-op and Morrisons.

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