Beating Tesco was well worth the sleepless nights, say campaigners

WE DID IT: Shopkeepers and residents from Hadleigh celebrate keeping their high street a Tesco free zone.
WE DID IT: Shopkeepers and residents from Hadleigh celebrate keeping their high street a Tesco free zone.
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Weeks of painstakingly going through planning papers, an expensively assembled team of experts and hundreds of posters combined to see off the threat posed to Hadleigh’s shops by Tesco.

The supermarket giant’s bid to build a store on the derelict land of the former Brett Works site was rejected due to concerns over the long-term impact it would have on the town’s economy.

A week on from the decision, campaigners who fought the proposals are cautiously optimistic about the future of their high street, and say they are prepared to go through it all again should Tesco return with a fourth application.

“With a bit of luck, Tesco will pull out and the land can be used for a different purpose,” said Jan Byrne, a member of the Hadleigh Society and Hands off Hadleigh group.

“But we will continue to fight if we need to.”

Mrs Byrne has seen Tesco fail in attempts to create a store on the land to the rear of High Street on three occasions.

Similar plans were dismissed in 1999 and 2011. There was also a Secretary of State inquiry in 2001, which ruled the town had an “under-provision of convenience facilities”.

But this time around, Mrs Byrne said that although protesters believed they had a stronger case – due to the opening of Morrisons in January – it could not simply be left to residents and shopkeepers to state their cause.

“We could no longer argue as amateurs, so we came up with a team of top professionals,” she said.

Among the experts, were Andrew Cann, a management consultant, Jonathan Glancey, a Hadleigh resident and advisor on architecture and urban planning, and top London QC Paul Stinchcombe.

They addressed the damage Tesco would cause, including independent shops closing, increased traffic and harm to the conservation area.

“We came up with the money for this team and it paid off,” said Mrs Bryne. “Even Babergh’s own economic experts believed Tesco would have a negative affect.

“We got the right answer, but it was very close and I will not be throwing any of the old paperwork away.”

It was claimed up to 14 shops would shut if Tesco won permission for its 2,500 square metre store and, despite promising to provide more than 100 new jobs, the economy would suffer.

Jane Haylock, who owns the Idler bookshop in High Street, said she was delighted and drained following the result.

“Fighting this takes up so much time and energy,” said Mrs Haylock who, along with her husband Brian, produced the posters for the Hands Off Hadleigh campaign.

“There have been lots of sleepless nights and now we all need to promote the town for visitors and boost tourists.”

Although the plans, which included a section 106 contribution of around £500,000 to the town, had been recommended for approval, worries were also raised about how the design of the store would fit in so close to many Grade II listed homes and the Grade I listed Guildhall and St Mary’s Church.

Robert Lindsay, a Bildeston parish councillor, said a store of the size proposed would not have been sustainable for Hadleigh.

“This store would have damaged the economy of Hadleigh and the villages in the catchment area,” he said.

“Local, independent shops such as those on Hadleigh High Street and in surrounding villages employ more people per square foot, they put profits back into the economy and they use more local suppliers.”

Seven district councillors voted against the plans and six for it. Mr Cann said this did not demonstrate the “overwhelming” case against Tesco, but did not rule out an appeal.

“It is difficult to know what Tesco will do, but a democratic decision has been made and the will of the councillors and people are what matters,” he said.