Tesco steps up suburban battle

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COMPETITION for shoppers in Broomhill is to intensify with the opening of a Tesco Express in November.

Already community representatives, residents and shoppers have registered their opposition to the possibility of a Sainsbury’s replacing the longstanding family-run Williamson hardware shop in the main Fulwood Road precinct.

Now construction is starting on a Tesco neighbourhood store in Turners Lane, off Whitham Road, opposite the top of Newbould Lane. With a bakery and a fruit and vegetable section, it is due to open around the middle of November.

It is heightening fears that the district shopping centre is losing smaller independent shops as the supermarket giants move in.

There is already a Eurospar on the Fulwood Road parade

Howard Fry, secretary of the Broomhill Forum, said: “There is a real threat of it becoming wall-to-wall competing supermarkets.”

There was no planning application for Turners Lane with the name of Tesco specifically attached.

However, permission for offices - Clun House - to be extended and used into retail was granted earlier this year by the council after an application by a property company.

There were only three representations from the public, the main concern being the traffic implications.

Broomhill Forum was due to discuss the situation at its annual general meeting yesterday (Wednesday), and is already looking at ways of doing more to support local shops.

More than 145 objections were lodged in response to an application by the landlords of the Williamson unit to rejig the premises when the current lease ends in November 2013, widely regarded in the community as paving the way for Sainsbury’s .

Concerns were raised that Broomhill shopping centre is in danger of losing its individualistic character, and community representatives are worried about the impact on the conservation area.

Broomhill Forum says it is welcoming the council’s “tightening” of planning controls over frontages of properties in the conservation area, including the rejection of an application for Costa Coffee for three units in Fulwood Road, near Nile Street.

However, the council said there were no planning grounds for rejecting the scheme for the Williamson store, which was for a different layout and did not refer to a supermarket.

When the Turners Lane plans were submitted, the property company said the site had been vacant for two-and-a-half years and there was no interest in offices.

A switch to retail would improve the appearance of the site and add vitality to the district centre, it was argued.

Under the terms of the planning agreement, the Tesco can open from 7am to 11pm. An application has been made for a licence to sell alcohol up to 10pm.

A Tesco spokesperson said: “We are delighted to be opening a Tesco Express in Turners Lane. These small convenience stores typically prove very popular with people in the neighbourhood wanting to top-up their cupboards without having to go to the supermarket. The store will employ around 18 people and we hope to work with local agencies shortly to recruit locally for people who would like a career with Tesco.”