Tesco scraps plan to expand Saffron Walden store

PUBLISHED: 10:15 18 September 2014 | UPDATED: 11:33 18 September 2014

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Supermarket giant Tesco has shelved its plans to double the size of its Saffron Walden store in Radwinter Road.

The Reporter has been ­pressing Tesco to reveal its intentions for the store over the past 12 months.

When its planning ­permission expired at the beginning of August, the company went silent despite several attempts by this ­newspaper to find out what was happening.

The news has been greeted with cynicism from some ­councillors and campaigners, many of whom believe Tesco never intended to expand its store in the first place and was only putting forward a proposal to ward off Sainsbury’s.

Nicky Agar, who set up the campaign group Saffron Walden Needs Sainsbury’s, said she was not surpised by Tesco’s announcement.

“My gut instinct was that the application was only ever used to stop Sainsbury’s going ahead and it worked. They said ‘if we build a bigger Tesco for you there won’t be a need for Sainsbury’s.’ Now it’s goodbye to both. The question is will Waitrose still expand as planned?”

In 2010, the two supermarket giants were locked in a battle for planning permission in a debate which split the town and led to the formation of campaign groups on both sides.

Uttlesford District Council was accused by campaigners of “bending over backwards” for Tesco when officers ­recommended councillors approved its bid – with a number of legal conditions attached, including hefty contributions towards ­highways improvements – but suggested refusal of Sainsbury’s plans to build a store on the former Granite site, in Thaxted Road.

Officers advised that a new superstore would have a “significant adverse impact on the town centre affecting the vitality and viability” which would be exacerbated by the Tesco proposal. They added that the Tesco plans, as the smaller of the two, would result in a “benign impact” on its own.

Ultimately, Tesco’s application received planning permission while Christina Downes, of the Planning Inspectorate, ruled following a two-week hearing that Sainsbury’s would have “significant adverse impacts” for the town.

She dismissed the Sainsbury’s appeal.

A Tesco spokesman said: “After careful consideration we have decided not to move forward with our plans to extend our Saffron Walden store.

“We understand many people may be disappointed by this decision and we are very grateful to all those who have voiced support.

“Customers are increasingly shopping online and in convenience stores and we have reconsidered our proposal in the light of these changing habits.

“We are really proud of our Saffron Walden store and look forward to serving the local community for many years to come.”

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