Hundreds attend Tesco store consultation in Swaffham

Draft plans for a new Tesco store in Swaffham have gone on show for the first time, prompting a mixed reaction.

The supermarket giant could open in Castle Acre Road after developer Millngate bought a derelict three-and-a-half acre site from Breckland Council in the summer.

A two-day public exhibition opened at the town's George Hotel on Friday and continues in the hotel's Pedlar Suite from 10.30am-3pm on Saturday.

More than 200 people dropping by in the first hour-and-a-half alone.

The proposed store, one of Tesco's smaller 'eco-friendly' designs, could create around 150 jobs and many attended specifically to express an interest.

Among them were students Francesca Dack and Emily Driver, both 17, who hope to find summer work before heading to university.

A planning application is due to be lodged with Breckland at the end of February and, if approved, the proposed store would open in December 2013 at the earliest.

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The plans were also welcomed by Swaffham resident Bradley Cox and Sporle resident Ian Kittle, who currently travel to Dereham for their weekly shop.

'There is not really middle ground in Swaffham at the moment and the site is an eyesore,' Mr Kittle said.

But Sam Papworth, the owner of four butchers' shops including one in Swaffham Market Place, fears the proposed store could draw trade out of the town centre.

'We love Swaffham, it's a super little town, and I'm sure Tesco won't ruin it,' he said. 'We are not afraid of competition, but I'm fairly certain we don't need it.

'This combined with Breckland Council looking at bringing in parking charges won't help the town centre one little bit.'

Mr Papworth said Fakenham town centre had suffered as a result of Tesco opening there around five years ago and 'pulling trade away.'

The plans include 199 car parking spaces and the information boards said the free parking was for the community to use 'not only when visiting Tesco but also when visiting other shops and amenities.'

Swaffham currently has an Asda store in Lynn Street, just off the Market Place, a Co-Op in London Street, an Iceland in the Market Place and a Waitrose also in Castle Acre Road, a few hundred yards from the proposed Tesco site.

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