Anti-supermarket expansion campaigners say council is ignoring views over Tesco plans

UTTLESFORD District �Council (UDC) planners have been �criticised for stating in their report over the proposed Tesco development that Saffron �Walden is ‘too affluent’ to be affected by the recession.

Planning officers have recommended the expansion of Tesco’s Radwinter Road store for approval and development control committee members will debate the plans – as well as the Sainsbury’s application for a new store in Thaxted Road – at an extraordinary meeting arranged for next Thursday (December 9).

Included in the council’s report for Tesco is a claim that Saffron Walden retail expenditure will continue to grow enormously, at the rates claimed by Tesco, regardless of the current �recession.

However, Save Walden Town Centre, the �campaign group fighting the proposals, insist that no evidence is given for this view, “other than a statement that local employment is below the national average and households are more affluent than the national average”.

Chairman Paul Gadd said the group is being ignored.

“We have been objecting to the claims made by Tesco since December last year and UDC refuse to accept anything we say to them,” he said. “The idea that retail expenditure will grow at a rate of eight per annum– or anything like it – in the near future is completely unrealistic.

“The leading firm of market researchers, �Experian, produce national average growth �forecasts which are used in virtually all retail growth forecasts. Their forecasts show that, after taking account of predicted local population increases and the growth of the internet, there will effectively be no retail expenditure growth for the next three years.”

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Mr Gadd added that an independent detailed report, commissioned by the group, shows that the Tesco extension could take away 25 per cent of town centre trade.

“It is quite obvious from a visit to the town centre that Saffron Walden is extremely quiet and that many shops are struggling,” he said. “We can see no possible reason why UDC would accept the Tesco claims.”

A council spokesman said: “As we have �previously explained to Mr Gadd, officers of the district council have to look at all the evidence both for and against the development in reaching their recommendations, and not just the views of Save Walden Town Centre.

“When councillors make their decision they will take the views of Save Walden Town �Centre into account, but that will be along with all the other views that have been expressed to the council.”

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