THE Tesco store being planned for Ramsey could be a phantom, according to the newly re-elected mayor for the town, Councillor Ian Walker. Cllr Walker has told The Hunts Post that he believes the store could be seeking planning permission not because it wa
THE Tesco store being planned for Ramsey could be a phantom, according to the newly re-elected mayor for the town, Councillor Ian Walker.
Cllr Walker has told The Hunts Post that he believes the store could be seeking planning permission not because it wants to build another superstore but because it wants to stop a rival supermarket going there.
Cllr Walker said: "Tesco already has a large store in Huntingdon and another in Hampton. It is unlikely to get more trade by building a store in Ramsey. People from Ramsey who now go to Huntingdon or Hampton will shop at the Ramsey Tesco. However, if Sainsbury's built a store in Ramsey, this could take trade away from the Huntingdon or Hampton stores."
However, Trevor Datson, spokesman for Tesco, said: "The district council is looking to regenerate that part of town.
"There have been quite intensive negotiations between us and the planners. We are trying to get this moving ahead and we are happy to do the lion's share of the work on regeneration.
"There has been no profound disagreement, the problem is the complexity of the scheme."
The importance of the Tesco store in Ramsey is that the whole "Northern Gateway" development of Ramsey hinges on it. As part of the deal, the aim was that the new store would bring in its wake, a community hall, industrial units, which Cllr Walker said the town sorely needed, as well as some housing, a new bridge over the river and possibly more buses.
Originally, Tesco had planning permission to build a smaller shop on land opposite the Co-op Rainbow Store in Stocking Fen Road, Ramsey.
Tesco, having achieved outline planning permission for the site opposite the Rainbow, then applied to Huntingdonshire District Council for permission to build a bigger store, further out of town. So far, this has been turned down by Ramsey Town Council and the district council has raised concerns about traffic.
A spokesman for Huntingdonshire District Council said: "The application for planning permission for the out of town store is still under debate."
Cllr Walker said: "I have said to Huntingdonshire District Council that if it gives permission, they should insist on two things. There should be a time limit on the permission and they should insist that the community hall gets built, whether the store is built or not."
He added that a Tesco store would be of greater benefit to the town if it were nearer to the centre so that it would attract trade to other businesses.
Cllr Walker said the long wait for the Northern Gateway Development had meant people in the town had "taken their eye off the ball" when it came to other projects. People were putting things on hold, he said, for a development that may never come.
He said: "We need something to rejuvenate the town. We have a struggling market and every time a shop shuts it seems to be replaced by one selling fast food.
Cllr Walker also commented on the other big issue in Ramsey, the redevelopment of The Ramsey Grand site.
The former 1930s art deco cinema on The Great Whyte had become a general town venue. So far, the town council has rejected several plans put forward by Luminus Group for housing on the site, rejecting the design as out of keeping with its Victorian surroundings. There is also contention over the size of windows in the proposed new library building.
Cllr Walker said: "We are keen on having a new library in the town centre, which would bring a liveliness to the centre of the town, but the current plan is to have very large windows, which is not appropriate for a building on The Great Whyte."
Cllr Walker said he was proud to have been re-elected as Mayor of Ramsey for a second year. "It looks like a challenging year, like last year, but I am very proud to represent the town.