Suffolk town that took on Tesco and won... FOUR times!

Tony Gosling tony at
Thu Oct 10 18:51:51 BST 2013

Town that took on Tesco and won... FOUR times! 
Traders raise £80,000 to save their high street

    * Hadleigh councillors vote to block new 
supermarket to protect local shops
    * Tesco first applied to build a store in 
1987 but still cannot get permission

PUBLISHED: 16:54, 30 September 2013 | UPDATED: 18:21, 1 October 2013

Three times the residents of a small town had seen off the might of Tesco.

So when Britain’s biggest retailer returned for a 
fourth go at putting a supermarket in their high 
street, the residents knew they had a real fight on their hands.

For 25 years the people of Hadleigh in Suffolk 
had put up posters, written letters and held 
marches to stop the retailer installing itself in the town.

Shopkeepers had warned that the arrival of a 
supermarket would destroy the town by 
undercutting their traditional shops and forcing them to close.

But when Tesco announced yet again it was 
planning to build a supermarket in the historic 
wool town, where 92 per cent of buildings are 
listed, the residents decided there was only one 
way to take on the mighty retailer.

Instead of organising a new petition or preparing 
placards, the town pulled together to raise an 
impressive £80,000 war chest – made up of 
donations from shopkeepers and individuals – to 
pay for a team of experts, including a top London QC.

Jan Byrne, 77, of the Hadleigh Society, said: ‘We 
realised we could no longer just argue as 
amateurs. It was made clear to us that the local 
council was only going to take notice of professionals.

‘It seems ridiculous to have to pour big money 
into it, and for a small town to raise that kind 
of sum, but we did it. It shows the strength of 
feeling about the prospect of Tesco moving in.’

A small team of retired residents in the town – 
described by poet Sir John Betjeman as ‘one of 
the most perfect small towns in England’ – pored 
over every word of the supermarket’s application.

They then commissioned professional reports to 
highlight the possible impact the store could 
have on the town’s traffic system and its economy.

Seven of the town’s  traders, including the 
sweetshop, a butcher and a florist, said they 
would definitely shut if Tesco won permission for 
its 2,500 square metre store in the town centre.

A further seven stores – including the post 
office, a newsagent and a tile shop, said they would ‘probably’ close.

Mrs Byrne said: ‘We have a medieval high street 
with small family shops selling local goods, and we do not want to lose it.

‘I want people who can give us a good service and 
who can tell us where the food has come from.

‘We’ve got two butchers. The food is very, very 
local – they can tell us the farm where the meat is from.

‘When everyone was worried about horsemeat, I 
knew that the beef burgers I bought had come from just up the road.’

At a packed council meeting the residents’ hard 
work was rewarded when permission for the store was rejected by a single vote.

Peter Beer, planning committee chairman, said: 
‘The impact on the local highway network, the 
effect on the vitality of the town centre in 
retail terms and its design and impact on listed 
buildings were all fundamental to the council’s decision.’

The campaigners greeted the decision with applause.

Andrew Cann, spokesman for the Chamber of 
Commerce, said: ‘It’s a victory for the people of 
Hadleigh as it was simply going to destroy the 
high street, and people come here because of the 
environment and the independent stores.’

Tesco has not ruled out appealing or putting in a 
new application, but Mrs Byrne said local people 
have already got plans for the proposed site, a plot of abandoned warehouses.

She said: ‘People are dreaming about what would 
happen if Tesco would go away and let us buy the site.

‘The one thing we have not got is small 
retirement units for independent living for people who want to downsize.’

Tesco said many Hadleigh residents had supported 
its project, which, it said, would have brought 
jobs and more choice to the town.

Tesco had planning applications rejected in 1987 and 2000.

A government inquiry in 2001 rejected an appeal. 
In 2011 a further application was rejected.

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