AN independent report, commissioned by opponents of a Sainsbury’s store on an out-of-town industrial estate, says it would “devastate”

the town centre.

Report author Mathew Morris, of GVA Grimley, said of the proposed store on the New Mills industrial estate: “Overall, the proposed Sainsbury’s will have a clear significant adverse impact upon the vitality and viability of the town centre.

“This will involve ‘significant loss of trade and turnover, the loss of vitality with existing stores, the potential closure of stores, plus the loss of choice and competition within the town centre environment’.”

Ledbury Opposes Out of Town Superstores group (LOTS) also commissioned a report which looked into the impact a proposed Tesco superstore would have on Ledbury. This came to a similar conclusion.

LOTS spokesman Richard Hadley said: “We have consistently argued if new supermarket capacity is built in Ledbury, it should be in or very near the town centre in order to maintain the health of the High Street.

“Strong evidence exists to show how out-of-town developments drain town centres of shoppers and siphon off money from the local economy, which leads to a loss of jobs.”

The GVA report states there is insufficient surplus expenditure available from the Ledbury area to justify the proposed new Sainsbury’s store.

It adds that the long term viability of the Co-Op store in New Street could be threatened.

But local supporters of the Sainsbury’s application say the report’s conclusions mean little.

They say it also does not reflect the “the silent majority” of more than 1,100 residents who have put their name to a petition backing the scheme.

Colin Marschall, of the Ledbury Supports Sainsbury’s group (LESS), said: “I would like to see a completely independent, noncommissioned report.

“It is easy to pick holes and look at figures in different ways.”

He added: “We have had enough of certain people telling us how the town should be.

“A large body of people in Ledbury support us. The silent majority is no longer silent.”

Herefordshire Council's planning committee is scheduled to make its decision on the planning application on Wednesday, February 22, 􀁥 Only a handful of Bronte Drive residents attended a meeting with Sainsbury’s to discuss the retail giant’s plans for a superstore.

They heard the plan is now to make the store single-storey, so that Bronte Drive properties close to the site, on the New Mills industrial estate, will not be overlooked.

... but plenty of people support it

A LEDBURY business family feels so strongly Sainsbury’s should get its superstore they have put a big sign up on their porch to show support.

Yvonne White, of Bye Street, said drivers are honking their horns in support whenever they see the Ledbury Supports Sainsbury’s banner.

Mrs White, the former Bye Street chip shop owner, said: “Ledbury needs the choice Sainsbury’s would bring. At the moment the number of people who shop out of town is unbelievable and the jobs are needed desperately.”

Mrs White and her daughters, Teresa Potter, owner of the Utopia hair salon, and Tina Mitchell, owner of Balloon Magic, are all helping with the Ledbury Supports Sainsbury’s petition, gathering signatures and spreading the forms about town.

􀁥 Ledbury residents who support Sainsbury’s plans will be in the town centre tomorrow (Saturday).

Colin Marschall, of the Ledbury Supports Sainsbury’s group (LESS), said: “We just want to talk to people and see if they want to sign our petition. Nearly everyone we speak to says the store will be a welcome addition.”