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HONITON: Traders react to plans for Heathpark supermarket
Thursday, 27 February 2014
Honiton’s business community has reacted strongly to the prospect of a major supermarket opening a new store at Heathpark.
East Devon District Council rejected the site as a potential location for its new head office and instead made Exeter’s SkyPark its preferred choice, freeing up the land to commercial interests.
No formal application has yet been made, but at Honiton Town Council’s February meeting earlier this month, Leader of EDDC Paul Diviani confirmed that a supermarket was ‘chasing’ the site.
And traders in Honiton have been quick to express their concerns that the high street could suffer as a result of further development away from the town centre.
Wendy Le Masurier, of Wendy’s Cookshop, who helped to organise a major high street shopping event in Honiton last year, called the prospect of another supermarket being lined up for the town ‘ridiculous’.
She said: “We have incorporated Aldi and Lidl, which has created a good element of competition for Tesco and the Co-operative, and all four supermarkets provide a good range of products targeted to every budget. But a fifth supermarket is unnecessary.
“Honiton High Street has continued by diversifying and I am hugely disappointed with EDDC for their reluctance to support it.
“Both EDDC and Honiton Town Council have wasted time sat on committees asking why the high street is suffering.
“But behind the scenes members of those committees are doing deals with supermarket developers years in advance purely for their own profits. Opportunities like this do not just happen overnight – it is ridiculous.”
Duncan Finlayson, of The Paper Shop in New Street, who campaigned against plans for Tesco to relocate to Ottery Moor Lane in 2008, said people could be driven out of the town centre if another supermarket was opened.
He said: “The town is currently running quite well but another supermarket up there could create competition in the Heathpark end of town. That would take people away from the high street and businesses could lose out on trade.
“We have got sufficient options in Honiton and people get a good selection from the current providers. We could really do with something like McDonald’s up there – something that we do not already have.”
Honiton town councillors were sceptical of the decision to make Skypark the preferred choice for EDDC’s head office, and Councillor Vivienne Ash said Honiton was being ‘sold out’ by the potential sale of Heathpark to a major supermarket.
Speaking at the February full council meeting, Councillor Ash said another store was ‘the last thing’ the town needs.
Honiton’s Chamber of Commerce executive committee discussed the situation at a meeting last week, but said it was too early to make any judgment.
Chairman Colin Wright said: “As a chamber, we would like to see more competition among the supermarkets in the town and to have more employment opportunities would also bring benefits.
“Honiton town centre offers a unique shopping experience with high quality produce and a range of options. But there is a concern that high street businesses could lose out if there is more to choose from at the top end of the town.”
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