Keep superstore out of our town

AN AWARD-WINNING independent retailer who believes a new superstore will gridlock Harrogate's northern entrance is urging the public to join a campaign to keep the town as the last postcode in the country without a Tesco store.

Andrew Loftus, managing director of Weeton's urban farm shop on West Park, claims Tesco's dominance in the UK is damaging local food producers and the rural economy.

"This argument is well publicised," he said.

"The stark fact that Tesco now makes more profit in five minutes than the average UK farm makes in a year speaks for itself."

Tesco has applied to Harrogate Council for permission to build a 108,300 sq ft superstore with 530 parking spaces and a recycling centre on 8.6 acres at the junction of Ripon Road and Skipton Road.

The semi-derelict site was formerly the town's gas works.

Tesco expect the superstore to be visited by 4,000 vehicles per day and intends to widen Skipton Road to two lanes in each direction between the superstore entrance and New Park roundabout to cope with the traffic.

Mr Loftus, whose business was the Countryside Alliance's Best Rural Retailer in 2006, believes 4,000 extra vehicles will overload the northern approach to Harrogate.

"That is a huge volume and doesn't even include delivery lorries," he said.

"Getting into Harrogate is already difficult – the eastern approaches are regularly gridlocked.

"Another supermarket on the town's northern artery will strangle Harrogate.

"As a local retailer I know that far more of my customers travel into town from the north and west than come in from the York side of town.

"To me, the reason for this is obvious. On the Wetherby Road, past Sainsbury's, 20 minute delays are part of life. Customers simply don't come into Harrogate this way unless they really have to.

"Tesco boasts that the new store will create 400 new jobs, but at what cost?

"The damage to all businesses, not just food retailers, will be incalculable.

"The creation of more traffic will deter city centre shopping, working, and result in serious losses for local business."

Tesco said local residents were tired of crossing Harrogate to do their weekly shop and had told the company they were looking forward to having a supermarket.

A spokesman said: "Overall, the proposals would help to ease congestion, and contribute only small delays during peak times - on average just one minute.

"The reduction of cross-town trips as a result of the proposals is estimated to save over 500,000 vehicle kilometres annually and would help to reduce congestion on the A59 to the south east.

"The council itself identified the need for a supermarket on the north side of Harrogate a number of years ago and we have responded to that.

"The old Gas Board site is a great location to provide locals with a quality retail environment."

Comments on the application, which can be made via the council's website, must reach the planning department this week.

Mr Loftus said: "It may take 10 minutes of your time – but that is nothing compared to the queues you may endure if you do not."

Harrogate Council intends to hold a special meeting of its planning committee on November 27 to consider Tesco's application.

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