Store ‘swap’

SIR - Last week it was reported that Tesco wanted to swap its South Molton Norringtons Yard site for Council car park land to enable it to reposition its proposed 3000 sq m supermarket in the middle of the South Molton’s central car park.

In November the district Executive gave the go ahead to a supermarket built on the Norrington’s site. I understand that at that time Tesco had agreed to buy part of South Molton car park from the council for �3 million to make a viable site and then lease the store car park back to the district council for it to administer.

On the face of it then, the reported “swap” would enable Tesco to move to a new central site without paying a pound extra for the revised deal. By agreeing this option the Council would also lose its control over the site and the ability to walk away from any deal without penalty. It would also hand control to Tesco and make further “consultation” pointless because if Tesco’s planning application was rejected they could take the decision to appeal which would land the District Council with unaffordable legal costs.

This project now on the table is not the one South Molton has been “consulted” on. Back in 2000 the local plan stipulated that the livestock market should move before a new supermarket was built. In 2004 this was circumvented by the district council’s supplementary planning guidance which stipulated a 1000sq m supermarket on the periphery of the central area to keep it as far away as possible from the livestock market for “bio security” reasons. The district’s own planning guidance, in my opinion, has been comprehensively ignored.

In every representation the town has made to the district council it has requested that the livestock market be moved before a new supermarket is built.

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Residents have been given no opportunity to oppose the huge increase in size of this supermarket or its new dominating position at the heart of the town. The town faces a real threat to existing retailers and the Pannier Market plus congestion and parking problems. Its recycling centre has also been displaced.

Enough is enough. Norringtons Yard is obviously the wrong site, so consideration should be given to allowing a supermarket auction on the livestock market site. This would preserve recycling in its central site, finance the livestock market site and should provide a surplus for district finances. Tesco is not the only supermarket interested in South Molton. It seems so obvious so why has it not happened?

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Tony Martin,

South Molton

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