Tesco expansion plan leads to 'Store Wars' fear

PUBLISHED: 11:59 03 September 2009 | UPDATED: 21:54 31 May 2010

NEW expansion plans put forward by Tesco have sparked fears that Saffron Walden could become a battleground for rival supermarkets and squeeze more trade out of the town centre. An application to build an extension on the Radwinter Road store will be s

NEW expansion plans put forward by Tesco have sparked fears that Saffron Walden could become a "battleground" for rival supermarkets and squeeze more trade out of the town centre.

An application to build an extension on the Radwinter Road store will be submitted to Uttlesford District Council by the supermarket giant.

The move follows last month's announcement by Sainsbury's to build a new store on Thaxted Road.

Chairman of Saffron Walden Business Forum, Richard Swain, described it as a "knee-jerk reaction" from Tesco. He said: "With the possibility of a third supermarket coming to the town, the forum does wonder if there is any need for more expansion.

"Nobody is against offering consumers more choice, but we would oppose any expansion plans that would have a negative impact on the town centre."

A Tesco spokesman dismissed claims that the firm's intentions had anything to do with Sainsbury's proposed development, and stated that Tesco has had a "long-term aim to improve" its store in Saffron Walden.

He added that Tesco will hold three public exhibitions throughout September to display their proposals for the store.

Tesco store manager, Steve Burley, said: "The proposals would modernise the store and improve the choice of goods available for our customers. Many shoppers have told me that the store is congested and have complained that we don't stock the product they are looking for.

"Before we submit a planning application, we want to get feedback and ideas from local people to ensure that their views are reflected in our final proposals. We look forward to meeting local people at the public exhibition."

Mr Swain criticised Tesco for not engaging enough with the community in the past and taking the people of Saffron Walden for granted.

"Tesco should be put under the spotlight because they distance themselves from the community and don't get involved with town initiatives," he said.

"And because this is an affluent area we often see higher prices at the pumps and on the shelves.

"Before the council make any decision on this the business forum would like to know if Tesco has been sticking to the original obligations which they made when planning permission for the store was first approved."

Chairman of community group Sustainable Uttlesford, Paul Garland, voiced concern for the shops and market stalls in the town centre. He said: "Saffron Walden is in danger of becoming a battleground for the big boys and the small retailer will get squeezed out."

A public exhibition will be held in the Baptist Church on the High Street from 11am to 7pm on Thursday September 10, from 11am to 6pm on Friday September 11 and from 10am to 2pm on Saturday September 12.

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