Halesworth split over new Tesco store plan

Victoria NichollsEnvironmental campaigners are urging councillors to 'be bold' and throw out proposals for a Tesco store in Halesworth, which they say would sound the death knell for independent shops.Victoria Nicholls

Environmental campaigners are urging councillors to "be bold" and throw out proposals for a Tesco store in Halesworth, which they say would sound the death knell for independent shops.

The chairman of Suffolk Preservation Society (SPS) has warned Waveney District Council that approval of the supermarket would have an "absolutely devastating" impact on the town's traders and residents.

But a petition supporting the Tesco bid has already attracted 400 signatures since it was started this month.

SPS chairman Mike Coleman said: "The sheer bulk of the enormous building which Tesco is proposing would have a devastating effect on the town, dwarfing everything else around it and detracting from the beauty of Halesworth's precious listed buildings and heritage.

"On top of that, such a huge supermarket would undoubtedly sound the death knell for our local retailers.

"The impact threatens to be absolutely devastating to the quality providers in the town and equally kill off most of the few remaining village stores too."

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The society also believes the bid would be contrary to the council's own local plan, which earmarks the proposed site for mixed use, including new housing.

Dr Coleman said that the proximity of the site to a conservation area and historical buildings was another negative point, adding: "To build this monstrosity on their doorstep is simply unacceptable. It will be nothing more than an enormous blot on what is now some of the most beautiful townscape which Suffolk has to offer."

Halesworth Town Council has recommended rejection of the application, although the final decision lies with Waveney.

Tesco's Nick Gellatly said it was disappointed by the council's views and wanted to arrange a meeting to settle concerns with residents, adding that a lot of people were in favour of a new store.

"Like the preservation society, we want Halesworth to thrive. People tell us Halesworth needs to move forward with the times and that the town must have better shopping choice," he said. "This is in fact a small store which will offer a good value shop and bring people back to town; that will benefit other businesses too and there will be around 200 new jobs."

Julie Hall, who works at Coopers hardware store, said: "I was born in Halesworth 51 years ago and I still work there now. I've very attached to the town and it is in need of a supermarket. It'll be good for local businesses at a time when the town centre is dying."