9:50am Friday 24th February 2012
By Gary Bills-Geddes
THE main hall of Hereford’s Shire Hall was packed with about 200 people on Wednesday morning, most of them Ledbury residents and supporters of either the Ledbury Opposes Out of Town Superstores Group (LOTS) or the Ledbury Supports Sainsbury’s group (LESS).
Representatives for each group were invited to address councillors ahead of the councillors’ own debate.
Richard Hadley, of LOTS, said: “People love Ledbury. It is not just a tourist town, it’s a living, breathing market town and it is precious.”
And fellow LOTS member Annette Crowe, a Homend trader, added: “We are all struggling to keep our heads above water. The opening of any superstore would devastate the fragile economy that exists in our High Street. It is not rocket science to see how the store would affect the High Street.” However Yvonne White, a LESS member and a former Ledbury trader, said a Sainsbury’s would bring benefits.
“I love our town. I would not harm it in any way.
“The majority of Ledbury residents support this application.
Men’s clothes, children’s clothes, white goods, none of these are available on the High Street.
“Our youngsters have no hope of finding a job locally, and 220 new jobs from Sainsbury’s is more than we can dream of.
“We cannot wrap Ledbury up in cling-film: it would surely suffocate and die.”
Opening the councillors’ debate, Ledbury representative Peter Watts said: “Ledbury has the fastest population growth in Herefordshire. It is crying out for a bigger, better shopping experience. Ledbury is a tourist town and no out-of-town store will change that. Tourists will still come to the town.”
But fellow Ledbury representative, Liz Harvey countered: “There’s just not enough money right now in the local economy to risk a whole lot of businesses going to the wall.”
She added: “Not this size, not this location, not now.” It was a view shared by Ledbury’s mayor Allen Conway, who said: “Two weeks ago we had a very important meeting.
“It split my council, and I had the casting vote. I cast my vote against the proposal. The application’s site is the wrong place; the building’s size is out of all proportion to our needs.”
It was Coun David Greenow who proposed rejecting the application, although he recognised the “enormous support, for and against” the proposal.
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