Published: January 7, 2009
Councillor fears Tesco expansion could be 'death knell' for Somerfield

Worried Burnham-On-Sea town councillors have this week expressed concern after it emerged that Tesco expects the proposed expansion of its Love Lane store to hit sales at rival Somerfield by over half a million pounds, potentially putting the store in jeopardy.

Members of the town council's planning applications committee met to discuss Tesco's application on Tuesday evening (January 6th) to review a report on the Love Lane store's expansion plans.

"Some councillors are extremely concerned that not all the facts about the application have been easy to find," explained town clerk Eileen Shaw.

The council is particularly concerned about a public transport service to be launched by Tesco as part of a so-called '106 planning agreement'.

The supermarket giant has pledged to give £100,000 towards developing a new shuttle bus service, in addition to £200,000 towards the regeneration of Burnham town centre, if its store expansion gets approved.

But several town councillors fear the shuttle bus would encourage shoppers in the town centre and particularly those who use Somerfield in Pier Street - where the service is likely to stop - to travel to Tesco instead.

"Tesco's own document says it expects Somerfield to see a projected trade drop-off of £530,000," said Mrs Shaw during Tuesday's meeting.

Cllr Ken Smout is among those who fear trade will be sucked out of the town centre.

He told the meeting: "I worry that the 106 agreement is not supporting the town, just benefiting Tesco. I'm all in favour of fair trade, but the public transport service should benefit all businesses."

He added that the proposals could be the "death knell" for Somerfield on Burnham's seafront.

"Can we afford to risk a prominent store on the town's seafront being boarded up?" he asked fellow councillors. "I doubt the store could afford to lose such a large amount as £530,000."

Cllr Janet Keen said she too has "concerns," adding: "I'm not happy with how Tesco has presented this and would be far happier if the public transport service were to take in a wider area."

Cllr Chris Williams added: "There are lots of unanswered questions here, like what the frequency of the public transport service will be, what the route will be, what impact it will have on the existing First Bus service, and whether the service will serve outlying villages and therefore help those residents to come into Burnham town centre. Until we have answers, we will not know the true impact."

The '106 agreement' will be one of several factors to be considered by Sedgemoor District Council when the application goes for a final decision later this month.

Meanwhile, the town council has asked the district council for more detailed information and guidance about future major planning applications.

Burnham-On-Sea.com was first to report last July Tesco's intention to expand its store. If approved, the scheme will provide an extra 1,200 square metres of shopping space and double the number of available parking spaces. It is designed to tackle over-crowding in the store and car park at peak times. Last October, one trader in Burnham-On-Sea labled Tesco 'a wolf in sheep's clothing' over its plans to expand the supermarket.

RELATED LINKS:

Tesco defends expansion at Burnham traders meeting
Survey finds 86% of Burnham residents back Tesco expansion
Tesco plans to build 17 new homes next to expanded store
More details emerge over Tesco expansion plans
Tesco to unveil expansion plans for Burnham store

 




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