A vision of the future for Halesworth town centre

Victoria NichollsHalesworth residents and shoppers were given their first glimpse of proposals to revamp the town centre area at a public exhibition.Victoria Nicholls

Halesworth residents and shoppers were given their first glimpse of proposals to revamp the town centre area at a public exhibition.

Cambridge Property Group's "vision for Halesworth" includes a new community centre, shops, offices and houses centred on a site off town's main pedestrian street, the Thoroughfare.

Landowner Tesco will hand the company ownership of the site if its planning application to build a store on a larger plot it owns, off Angel Link, is successful.

After seeing the display, which runs at the library until November 20, resident Garry Booth said: "Most people agree that that bit of the town needs sorting out, but they don't want it sorted out at any price, especially if that price is shoving in a great superstore that will completely change the character of the town. It doesn't need Tesco to come riding to the rescue."

Halesworth resident Dr Andrew Jones said: "We have got our own home-grown locally sourced local plan and Halesworth people would much rather not deal with something that looks like an imported scheme."

He added: "I don't want it to become a town like others. We live here because it is so idiosyncratic."

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Gloria Richardson, also from the town, said: "It think it's good. What would be nice is if we have some smaller shops.

"I don't know that Tesco would be a bad thing. In Beccles they said it would kill the town, but it hasn't; it's got busier and I think it would do the same for Halesworth. I think it will bring people into the town."

Ahead of the exhibition, more than 60 people attended a public meeting on Monday and they reached a consensus that the site was key to the economic viability of the town centre and should not dominated by a major retail outlet.

Those who attended also agreed that plans should include a community centre, a bus terminal with links to rail and cycle routes and a market place, as well as accommodating existing shops, and maintaining the essence of a market town.

A working party has now been formed to channel the views of the community to the council and potential developers.

Richard Woolnough, heading the group, said that regardless of people's views on the proposals, the exhibition had sparked interest in the future of the site.

"There are two ways of looking at this - one is that it's a problem and the other is that it's a real opportunity," he said.

"In terms of this opening a debate, at least it gives us an opportunity to say what we want. It's so crucial for the Thoroughfare to have retail development on that site."

Andrew Nickson, representing Cambridge Property Group, said: "We have to have a yardstick to start from. The whole idea is for the public to tell us what sort of development they are looking for within the centre."

The decision for the supermarket giant's bid to build a store in the town is still pending. A spokesman for Waveney District Council said: "The planning application for the Angel Link site is subject to continuing negotiation and a determination date has yet to be set."