Tesco set for civil war over store

RETAIL giant Tesco is set to get borough backing for its aim of building a massive superstore on the edge of Ipswich town centre.

Paul Geater

RETAIL giant Tesco is set to get borough backing for its aim of building a massive superstore on the edge of Ipswich town centre.

But other retailers in the town insist that the battle against Britain's largest supermarket chain is far from over.

Ipswich council's planning and development committee is due to meet tomorrow to discuss the proposal for the �70 million 900-job development on Grafton Way.

Because the proposal is so large, it cannot be decided by the borough, but will ultimately have to get the go-ahead from the government office of the east of England (Go-East).

But the opinion of the borough will be taken into account by Go-East and could make the crucial difference.

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Officers have spent months looking at the application by Tesco's regeneration arm Spenhill Properties, and are recommending that the borough approves the development in principle.

There are still issues that need to be ironed out - and Tesco will have to spend millions to sort out access problems to the site - but the company hopes it will be possible to open the new store during the second half of 2012.

The superstore is only part of the application - the development also includes two hotels with a total of 247 bedrooms, 129 flats (of which 33 would be “affordable”), four other shops or restaurants and 700 free car parking spaces.

A spokesman for Tesco said that, with a general election on the horizon, it could take several months to get a decision from Go-East and for all the aspects of the application to get approval.

But he hoped that work on site would be able to start this time next year.

He said: “We think the first phase of work - to the opening of the superstore - will take about 18 months. That would allow Tesco to get that open.

“The second phase of work will take another 18 months. That would mean the whole project could be open by the summer of 2014 - but that is a best case scenario.”

He said this was the first

regeneration project that Tesco had been involved with in East Anglia.

“This is a very exciting project and it should have a major impact on the local economy.

“There will be 600 jobs created in the superstore and a further 300 in the other businesses on the site.”

WHILE Tesco was delighted about the recommendation from the borough's planning officers, other businesses in the town centre remain unhappy about the proposal.

Ipswich Central - the organisation set up by the borough to represent businesses, especially retailers - retained its opposition to the proposal.

Ipswich Central chairman William Coe said: “We have consulted widely within the town centre and the vast majority of our stakeholders remain adamantly opposed to this development which will do the town centre enormous harm, detracting from its viability and vitality.

“The proposed development will bring with it an enormous weight of traffic to what is unarguably already the most congested spot in the town centre.

“It places huge question marks over alternative and more favourable retail developments and it threatens untold numbers of retailers already trading within Ipswich. “

“This is in addition to the negative impact that it will unquestionably have on new retailers considering Ipswich alongside other alternative trading locations”.

In January the developer behind the proposed new Westgate Centre - on the site of the former Civic Centre - warned a new Tesco could kill other developments.

Chris Goldsmith, managing director of Turnstone Estates, said: “If Tesco does get permission to redevelop Grafton Way then that will be the end for Westgate and probably for the Mint Quarter as well.

“You aren't going to get anyone else looking at a major site like this for the next 20 years. We'll just go on collecting car park income next to an empty development site.”

Existing Tesco stores in East Suffolk:

Copdock Mill,

Bramford Road, Ipswich.

Duke Street, Ipswich.

St Matthew's St, Ipswich.

Nacton Road, Ipswich.

Kesgrave.

Martlesham Heath.

Hamilton Road, Felixstowe.

Cedars' Park, Stowmarket.

Proposed stores:

Grafton Way, Ipswich.

Hadleigh.

Walton, Felixstowe.