Questions marks over plans for new superstore in Summer Wine country

INDEPENDENT traders in a small town made famous by Last of the Summer Wine are being warned that they will probably lose business if a major supermarket development gets the go-ahead.

Residents and businesses in Holmfirth, near Huddersfield, fought off plans by Tesco in 2011 to build a supermarket at the Midlothian Garage site, an out-of-town plot.

Several supermarket giants are thought to be interested in bidding next year for land at Holmfirth Cricket Club and Holmfirth Bowling Club.

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Club officials are weighing up the options and have stated they will not sell unless a new ground can be found as part of the deal.

Businesses in Holmfirth say the cricket club site might be suitable for a supermarket because it is within walking distance of the central shopping area.

But some have warned that traders will be hit hard by a supermarket opening its doors in Holmfirth.

Margaret Dale, of Keep Holmfirth Special, said if people wanted a big supermarket they had to think about the best location for it.

She said the future impact on the Holme Valley, and on the town and traders, had to be weighed up.

“It (the cricket club site) leaves a lot of question marks, such as the size of the store and how people are going to get in and out. If we do want a town that is attractive, it has to have a mixture of offerings.”

Kerry Sykes, owner of Holmfirth Events, said some smaller traders would lose out to a big superstore.

“I don’t think it will do some shops any good, some of them will suffer, but people have to do things differently and competition is good as it brings your game up. You have to do more things to get people in. And from the point of view of a resident, it will be good to have choice.”

She believes a large supermarket in Holmfirth may encourage people from outside the town to visit and do their shopping there - and not just at the supermarket.

Ian Gooch, the president of the town’s business association, Holmfirth Enterprise and Development, opposed the previous Tesco development on the grounds that the out-of-town location was not suitable. However, he backed plans by Lidl to open off Huddersfield Road, Holmfirth because the location was more central. The Lidl store is expected to open next summer.

The cricket club, which lies between the Lidl site and the existing Co-op store, would be a better location than the Midlothian Garage site, he suggested.

Mr Gooch said he would be cautious about welcoming a large supermarket into the town unless the company could show that it was willing to work with local people for the benefit of all.

“We want to protect the town centre, the character and the shops. We would like to work alongside any supermarket. We would want to sit down and have a chat about our concerns - what would be in direct competition with what we have already got in Holmfirth? We would want dialogue.”

He praised the Co-op and Lidl for their community involvement.

“We would be looking for a partnership kind of situation.”

Mr Gooch believes a supermarket in a central location could benefit the town and shoppers.

“It would stop people driving out of the area, reduce traffic and encourage people to stay local and shop local. We want to encourage people to shop locally and not go to Huddersfield.”

Although tourism spending remains important, he said the town had to look elsewhere for a sustainable future.

“We still get tourists but not as many as we used to. Holmfirth can’t rest on its laurels and expect tourists to keep coming into the area. We have so much more to offer.”

On the possible development of the cricket club, he said: “I would give it a cautious welcome but we don’t yet know how big the supermarket would be.”