Divided Swaffham town council will write letter in support of Tesco planning application

Swaffham town councillors were split when asked whether to support Tesco's application to build a store on Castle Acre Road.

Four councillors voted against writing a letter of support at a special meeting last night, citing fears it could increase traffic through the town centre and threaten its vitality.

David Wickerson said Tesco's claim the store would provide 50 full time and 100 part time jobs should be taken with a pinch of salt, because jobs may be lost in the town centre.

Another four councillors backed the plans, saying it would create jobs in the town, and provide a clothing store and cheap stationary that had been missing since Woolworths closed.

Sheila Lister said that if marketed correctly, the store could bring more people into Swaffham.

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Using her casting vote to support the planning application, mayor Shirley Matthews said: 'My instinct tells my it will be good. I just hope it will be.'

Speaking after the meeting, Dennis Tallon, who is due to take over a chairman of the Iceni Partnership, said a Tesco store would be good for the town, and not stop people who buy fresh meat or bread from shopping at local butchers and bakeries.

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More than 800 people attended a community exhibition in January, and documents included with the application claim 70pc supported the plans.

More than half of the 454 people who completed feedback forms registered an interest in working at the Castle Acre Road store

Respondents were split on the proposal's effect on the town, with 36pc saying they would be more likely to visit other town centre shops, and 33pc saying they would not.

The largest number of comments came from those who were worried a Tesco store would take business from the town centre, followed by those who were generally positive and those who said there was no need for a new supermarket.

Enthusiasm for the plans decreased with age, with 96pc of people under 18 in favour, falling to 57pc among those aged 66-75.

Louise Gosling, regional corporate affairs manager at Tesco, said: 'We are delighted to have received a great deal of community support for our proposals. Our proposed store will help increase footfall to the town centre because at present most people who live in Swaffham do not shop in the town.

'Tesco has a good track record of working closely with the communities and businesses in the areas local to our stores and we look forward to this in Swaffham if our proposals are approved.'

The final decision is expected to be made by Breckland Council early in the summer.

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