Is Tesco a threat to small shops?

A plan to increase the size of Tesco's store at Caister, near Yarmouth, has triggered renewed debate about the impact of superstores on small communities.

A plan to increase by one third the size of Tesco's store at Caister, near Yarmouth, has triggered renewed debate about the impact of superstores on small communities.

Opponents say it will inevitably harm small traders in the village high street but others say they would welcome a village hall or surgery coming as part of the proposal.

It comes after Tesco withdrew controversial plans to extend its Stalham store amid furious opposition.

A spokesman for Tesco, Nick Gellatly, confirmed it was looking closely at a possible total rebuild of its Caister store but that any scheme was at an early stage.

However, he said Tesco would consider making a financial contri-bution towards new local facilities as part of any planning application.

He said: 'We are considering our options as far as the Caister store is concerned. We know that the store is busy and congested and we would like to improve the shopping experience for our customers.'

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One of a number of options being considered for the Yarmouth Road store is to build a new supermarket on land behind it which would be 50pc bigger than the existing store.

This would replace the existing supermarket and as part of the new development, money would be provided for a new village hall which have facilities for community groups including Caister Youth Centre.

The parish council bought the land targeted for development behind the current store and next to the A149 Caister bypass for about �80,000 seven or eight years ago.

One suggestion has been this site could be sold to Tesco for a new store in return for funding for a new modern village hall to replace the old hall.

The Caister plans follow the retail giant's decision to drop its plans to double the size of its Stalham store following fierce local opposition that the larger store would damage smaller shops in the town centre.

But Mr Gellatly said the supermarket was not refocusing its expansion plans on the Caister store and said the Stalham proposal had been dropped temporarily to allow for more discussions of the concerns raised about the plans.

Caister borough councillor Marie Field welcomed the expansion plans because the retail chain always invested in community facilities as part of its store developments. But she preferred the money to be spent on a new medical centre rather than a village hall. 'I think it is a good idea because I find when they do these stores they always put something back into the community,' she said.

But Nigel Dowdney, who runs the Stalham Shopper store, had opposed the expansion plans in his town and said the superstore giant would damage smaller local stores.

He added: 'If they make the store a lot bigger there is not enough money in the local economy and money would go away from smaller businesses and into the pockets of the bigger businesses.'