Published: October 6, 2015
Photos: Protest held over Burnham Morrisons closure at council debate

Campaigners fighting to prevent the closure of Burnham-On-Sea's Morrisons supermarket waved banners during a protest at a Town Council meeting last night (Monday).

Staff and residents who are concerned about the store's proposed closure held up posters saying 'save our store' and 'death knell for our town' as councillors debated heard concerns about the impact on Burnham.

We reported last month that Morrisons had announced the proposed closure of 11 stores across the UK as part of a cost-cutting move - with Burnham's seafront seafront store among those earmarked to shut.

Gaynor Brown, who has led the campaign against the proposed closure and wants to hold a 'sit-in' protest' at the London holding company being blamed for the closure, said: "We have a petition of about 2,400 signatures asking for some form of action to get the decision reversed."

"This will devastate the town and probably halve the footfall, so it will impact the other traders too. 100 jobs are just the start and cannot be replaced."

She added: "The staff have been told that the store is uneconomic because of the huge hike in rent demanded by the holding company. Over 100 people are about to become redundant and they are at least entitled to the truth and to know that someone has tried to find out whether that holding company are totally out of touch with the reality of the current retail market or whether they are just plain greedy and don't give a damn."

She called on the Town Council to spend some of Burnham's Tesco development funding earmarked for the development of the town centre on helping to try and save Morrisons from closure.

"On behalf of the staff and 2,400-odd shoppers we are asking for £5,000 from the Tesco 106 money to take a trip to London and follow up with a car trip to Bradford to Morrisons - any excess to be returned."

"We realise it's the eleventh hour, but we are hoping there would be some action and it hasn't come so now the people of Burnham want the truth and action. What are the town council willing to do right here and now while it's still possible to reverse the closure?"

Resident Lyn Salvidge also spoke out during Monday's meeting: "I want to know what pressure the Town Council has put on pressure on Sedgemoor regarding the Morrisons closure. We cannot have an empty site at that end of town - we cannot have one supermarket, Lidl, in the town."

Lyn added: "We are a retirement town. There are lots of elderly people and people with mobility issues and if you have to look at taxi fares it's just not viable. The nearest Morrisons is in Bridgwater - it's a £40 round-trip there."

"With no greengrocers in town, and no butchers in town, if we lose Morrisons we will have then lost our last butcher in that final remaining store."

She finished by congratulating the Morrisons staff who "despite everything that's going on have been carrying on gamely... and you wouldn't know the store is under a proposed closure."

She added that rumours are circulating in the town that social housing flats have been earmarked for the property with shops underneath.

Cllr Martin Cox spoke out: "On behalf of all councillors, I'd like to say that we are all very, very concerned about this closure."

Cllr Cox added "We are rather shocked that Morrisons has become the centre of our town and it all seems rather busy all year round - I'm surprised that they find it uneconomic. They have 11 years to run on their lease."

"I support the campaign that is going on and would like us to write to the economic development team at Sedgemoor District Council asking them to put forward our voice that Morrisons is a very intricate part of the town and we would like them to reconsider their decision and if they're unable to do that, that it is filled as soon as possible."

Cllr Paul Young suggested that the Town Centre Manager should get in touch with the lease holder and see if she can negotiate with them to bring down the rent. The Town Centre Manager has already held talks with several key stakeholders, including Sedgemoor and the Chamber of Trade.

Burnham's Mayor Michael Clarke said: "I am sure I speak for all members around this table when I say we understand and appreciate the concerns over Morrisons. The problem is that Morrisons is not talking to the district council or ourselves. We are all concerned.. rest assured we will do whatever we can."

Speaking to outside the meeting, those who were in the audience voiced their concerns. Sandra Shillicker said: "We all fear that Burnham will become a ghost town without a supermarket here."

Another said: "We're at the 11th hour now. Time is running out if we are to save the jobs and this essential part of Burnham's town centre."


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