Authority hopes encouraging national retailer to Watton will help improve footfall to high street

Watton Town Council hope attracting a national supermarket to the town's high street will help impro

Watton Town Council hope attracting a national supermarket to the town's high street will help improve footfall. Left to right: Stan Hebborn, vice chairman of the town council; councillor Tina Kiddell and councillor Susan Hebborn. Picture: Rebecca Murphy - Credit: Archant

Concerns for the future of a market town's high street has seen a local authority take steps to attract a national business to open a shop.

Watton High Street. Picture: Rebecca Murphy

Watton High Street. Picture: Rebecca Murphy - Credit: Archant

Although Watton boasts a variety of different shops on its high street - including independent butchers, bakers and jewellers - there are currently five empty shops, an unused pub and an empty restaurant all situated in the town centre.

Since the closure of the Budgens – which fell into administration - at the start of this month, the town council has said members of the public and shop owners have commented on the reduction of the number of people in the town.

Led by mayor Beryl Bunning, the authority has invited six national chains - Asda; Sainsbury's; Iceland; Morrisons; Lidl and Aldi - to consider establishing an outlet at Budgen's old site.

Mrs Bunning said: 'We are concerned about the future of the high street.

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'The Town Council believes that if a new mini supermarket were to open it would not disadvantage any of the existing retailers but would encourage greater footfall within the high street, and perhaps car journeys to other shopping centres would be avoided.'

The town has a Tesco which is situated on Thetford Road and a couple of minutes walk from the town centre.

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But Stan Hebborn, vice chairman of the council, said he fears if it is the only supermarket in the town, it may keep people from walking down the high street.

'People who live in villages and are elderly get the bus to Watton and there is a bus stop outside of Budgens,' he said. 'They would use Budgens and then use the high street. Now Budgens is not there so the high street shops are noticing it.

'If people came to the high street and bought one or two items it would help the town. We need the town to supporting the high street.'

What do high street shop owners think?

Steven Smith, owner of Steven Smith butchers, said he would welcome a supermarket.

The 57-year-old said: 'If there is nothing for people to come for they are not going to come.

'There are definitely less people. We need something for people to want to come to the centre for.'

Mica Nunn, 26, has run Bakers Treat for three-and-a-half years.

She said: 'It has been quiet in the town over the past year. We do need some sort of supermarket which will bring people in town.

'I would welcome it for other shop owners on the high street. It would be a benefit.'

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