Anger at Tesco bid in Pakefield

PLANS to turn an historic pub into the Lowestoft area's fourth Tesco store have prompted a wave of objections – amid claims that it is unwanted by local people and will harm existing businesses.

The supermarket giant announced last week that it had submitted proposals to close the Tramway Hotel on London Road, Pakefield, and replace it with a new Tesco Express store from next year.

Since then, people have contacted The Journal to voice their anger at the plans and a petition has been set up.

Many are concerned at the loss of the pub – which stands on the site of a former tram terminus – and at the potential impact on nearby businesses, including a bakery and a convenience store.

In response to the concerns, and after talks between Tesco and members of the Promoting Pakefield Group, a public meeting is to be held to allow people to have their say on the plans.

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The news of Tesco's proposals came as a major shock to Terry Hunter, who has been the licensee at the Tramway Hotel for 15 years. He was stunned to find that its owner – Enterprise Inns – might lease it.

Mr Hunter admitted it would be a 'sad day' if the pub was forced to call time on its business, but the situation was out of his hands and it was business as usual in the meantime, despite suggestions it had already closed.

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Angi Smith, who works for Mr Hunter at The Tramway, said she was angry that Tesco had claimed it would be creating 20 new jobs, when those of people working at the pub and at existing businesses – including the nearby Spar shop and Cooperative Foodstore – would be put in jeopardy by Tesco opening in the same area.

'I'm finding it hard to believe that a supermarket chain would consider such a fabulous old building to be a suitable choice for a store, let alone the location being so close to a Spar and Co-op,' she said.

'There is a petition which has numerous signatures on and I hope when Tesco apply to Waveney District Council for permission it is thrown out without even a consideration, which is all it deserves.'

If the plans win approval, the new Tesco would become the fourth in the Lowestoft area as the company already has stores in Gunton, in London Road North and at Beccles Road, Carlton Colville.

In a letter to The Journal, Paul Hobbs, chairman of the Promoting Pakefield Group, said he believed there was 'already legitimate competition between stores serving the community' and that the Tesco Express was not wanted or needed.

He added: 'So where, we must ask Tesco, will the customers come from? They will, I suspect, come from the existing shops which also open until late and whose products by and large will be identical to those at the proposed new store. If it is genuinely interested in the community, why has Tesco not come to us and asked us what we would like the building to be used for?

'There are many potential uses which, with planning consent, would genuinely enhance the area.'

Brenna Batchelder, of Kendal Road, Pakefield, also wrote to The Journal this week.

She said: 'I live in hope that Waveney's development control committee will refuse Tesco's application for a change of use on the grounds of traffic and parking issues. We have a thriving little section of shops in Pakefield and I do not want them to lose even more of their trade to Tesco.'

Yesterday, Mr Hobbs confirmed he had been in contact with Tesco's corporate affairs manager Matt Hill and that a 'detailed list of questions' had been sent to the company. He added: 'We have asked Tesco if they are prepared to take on board the issues that Pakefield people have raised with a view to making an amicable solution.'

Mr Hill insisted that Tesco's plans would 'secure the future' of the Tramway Hotel, which has stood on the site for more than a century.

He said: 'After taking on the Tramway Hotel last week, we have been actively engaging with local councillors and nearby residents to address any concerns which they may have about our proposals. We are keen to hear the views of all Pakefield residents, and have also accepted the invitation of the Promoting Pakefield Group to present our plans at a public meeting in the near future.'

A spokesman for Enterprise Inns told The Journal yesterday: 'As part of the on-going development of our pub estate, we do from time to time identify pubs that may no longer have a long-term future in our estate. We have carefully reviewed our options for the Tramway Hotel which, subject to planning permission, may result in leasing the site to Tesco.'

? Petitions can be signed at the Ferini Art Gallery in All Saints Road, Pakefield; at Knight Vision in London Road South and the Spar store on Pakefield Street.

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