Monday, December 10, 2012
A new supermarket plan for Holt has been backed by town councillors despite concerns aired by town traders that it could spell the death knell for the shopping Mecca.
But the support was given a rider - that any store should have affordable prices after councillors pointed out that many families in the apparently well-to-do town could not afford to shop there.
The plan is for the Thaxters’ wood and builders’ yard, just over the other side of the bypass from the town centre. A 15,000sq ft store would provide 100 jobs and 85 parking spaces.
But town councillor Duncan Baker airing the chamber of trade’s view warned of concerns the new store could mark the “death knell of Holt town centre.”
The director of C T Bakers, which runs a rival Budgens store, was not allowed to debate or vote on the decision but was given special permission to put his and the chamber point of view to the town council.
He said a retail study showed businesses could suffer a 9pc drop in trade which could be “disastrous” for those with marginal profits. It also failed to show a need, and traders did not believe there would be any spin-off business for the main town, because the bypass was in between.
“We are not afraid of competition but afraid of the footfall we could lose in the town,” he added.
It was also difficult to make a decision not knowing which company was going to operate the store, he said, calling on colleagues to defer a decision a month.
Councillors however decided to debate the plan at Monday night’s meeting and voted 8-0, with one abstention, to support the Thaxters site plan - with a request for an affordable operator.
Ray Moore said: “There are a lot of people with a lot of money in Holt, but we also have the highest level of free school meals in north Norfolk. People south of the bypass need a good cheaper alternative.
And Colin Hipperson added: “People need a choice. There are young families in Holt who cannot afford to shop here.”
Andy Turner also felt the town “should not be run by the traders who mostly don’t live here.”
Traders calls for a delay so the scheme could be considered alongside yet another possible store plan recently mooted on the Gresham’s pre prep school were rejected.
Maggie Prior said: “If we delayed your planning application for a house extension until we could see what Joe Bloggs up the road’s looked like, there would be hell to pay.”
The final decision will be taken by North Norfolk District Council whose planning committee will debate it on January 17.
After the meeting chamber of trade acting chairman Rhu Bruce Lockhart said he was “disappointed” with the decision, that the Gresham’ scheme was not taken into consideration and that the councillors saw it as “traders versus the town.” The chamber would be sending its views direct to the planning authority too.