Supermarket schemes ‘set to destroy struggling businesses’

Business leaders have warned that a series of multi-million pound supermarket developments in some of North Yorkshire’s main shopping destinations will swamp independent traders battling against the economic downturn.

The warning from the North Yorkshire Federation of Small Businesses comes after councillors gave the go-ahead for a Tesco superstore in Scarborough – the second scheme by the supermarket giant to be approved in the county in three months.

In September Harrogate Borough Council gave the go-ahead for a multi-million pound Tesco store, despite the spa town being the last postcode in mainland Britain without a Tesco supermarket.

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Both schemes have attracted fierce criticism and campaigns have been set up in the towns in opposition to the superstores.

The regional chairman of the North Yorkshire Federation of Small Businesses, Simon Williams, said both developments would come as a major blow to independent retailers.

He said: “The shopkeepers in a lot of these small towns are suffering because they have got these big supermarkets. When they come in they are not interested in little businesses.

“The big superstores offer everything and even those people who say they won’t use big stores do because at the end of the day everybody is looking for a cheap price and these supermarkets all offer various things to help draw people in.

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“This destroys businesses on the street because they can’t compete with their prices.”

Mr Williams claimed the schemes were passed owing to the financial benefits of local authorities selling off land to the supermarket giants.

“It doesn’t seem to matter how much opposition there is, they are just overruled by councillors who more often than not are being offered some incentive by supermarkets. Eventually this will have an effect on the high street without a doubt.

“The reality is how many stores does Tesco have to have?”

Helen Rimmer, food campaigner at Friends of the Earth, which is part of the Tescopoly campaign group, said the new stores would have a huge impact on businesses which are struggling to keep their head above water as the economy continues to bite.

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She said: “Tesco already controls over a third of the grocery market and these two new stores will be more bad news for small traders and the local economy in North Yorkshire. Independent shops keep more money in the local area and employ more people.

“The Government and local authorities must introduce tougher planning rules to support small shops and local economies and to give people a genuine choice of where to shop.”

Scarborough councillors gave the go-ahead on Thursday for two supermarket developments in the seaside resort, but the Tesco scheme has provoked a wave of fierce opposition.

Dozens of protesters were outside the Scarborough Council planning committee meeting on Thursday, voicing concerns over the impact the Tesco store would have on residents and the town’s road network.

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Central ward councillor Eric Broadbent has opposed the scheme, claiming it would wipe out independent retailers and dramatically change the town’s shopping centre.

Protesters jeered as councillors voted five to four in favour of the scheme, which will see Tesco’s existing Westwood store replaced with a 65,000 sq ft outlet on Dean Road and the current Sainsbury’s store in Falsgrave Road expanded by 33,900 sq ft.

Both supermarket giants claim the new developments will boost jobs and help tackle long-term unemployment in the towns.

Planning conditions placed on the Harrogate development, which will see a superstore built on a site at the former gasworks at New Park, mean Tesco will have to invest £1.5m in the town centre.