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MP Calls For Meeting Over Tesco Store Plan

By Jo Deeks on Tuesday, 17th October 2006.

Fears that a new Tesco store in Haverhill could kill off trade for other shops in the town are shared by MP Richard Spring, who is calling for a site meeting with the super market giant.

Mr Spring has written to Councillor John Griffiths, leader of St Edmundsbury Borough Council, asking that a meeting be arranged with representatives of the town's retailers, the Chamber of Commerce, the Town Council, Tesco and St Edmundsbury Borough Council, to try "to map out a way forward in the most constructive spirit possible".

Mr Spring said he would also be happy to attend.

Although congratulating St Edmundsbury on its commitment to the continued revitalisation of Haverhill, Mr Spring said he fully sympathised with the anxieties of shop keepers in the town - who had sent him a petition - members of the town council, and of the Chamber of Commerce, which opposed the proposed road lay-out.

He pointed out that in Newmarket, the sizeable Waitrose store is not allowed to sell items like clothes and electrical goods, and at the extended Budgen's store in Mildenhall the same principle applies.

He wrote: "There does appear to me to be a clear conflict between the sustainability and further diverification of Haverhill's town centre and a major supermarket being allowed to sell products like clothing and electrical goods which are in direct competition with small town centre shops.

"Indeed, fully 20 per cent of the floor space of the proposed Tesco store had been earmarked for these products, and I believe, at minimum, this figure is excessive.

"I should like to draw your attention to the policy of Forest Heath District council in my constituency which I think you could well emulate. They do not want to see the disappearance of small specialised shops as has happened so often elsewhere in England.

"I believe the same restrictions should apply in Haverhill. We want to see a much more comprehensive specialised retail base in the town centre itself in the longer run.

"I understand there is also concern about the siting of the road next to Tesco and how this could best integrate the store - whose arrival I would personally very much welcome - into an improved town centre.

"I understand that the road structure was essentially agreed in January by the planning committee. However I do believe it would be sensible to reconsider the relocation of the road to the area behind the proposed store - apparently as Sir Frank Gibberd had envisaged several decades ageo.

"I want you to know that there are very real worries about the degree of integration with the town centre, arising out of the current proposed route. I should also add in passing that if cars are allowed to park free at Tesco, this may have an impact on the pattern of retail spending as normally shoppers have to pay for parking in the town.

"I appreciate that any specific development will always attract controversy - Tesco will want to obtain the best deal for themselves which is correct and understandable. However, their new store cannot be allowed to undermine the excellent work the council is undertaking to modernise and upgrade the town centre.

"Ultimately, it is the ambition of us all to see a comprehensive and integrated range of retailing activity in the town centre to match higher consumer expectations and the greater prosperity of Haverhill. This proposed Tesco store has to be an important element in this process."

A spokesman for St Edmundsbury Borough Council said: "A response is being considered to Mr Springs letter".

Haverhill Weekly News

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