Led by Time for Health owners Jane and Richard Waters, nearly 20 businesses in the town centre have signed a petition to stop the demolition of the Manchester Arms and plans to replace it with a retail unit on the Needingworth Road site. St Ives Town Councils planning committee has also raised objection to the scheme, which was submitted last month to Huntingdonshire District Council by pub owners Punch Taverns. Mrs Waters told The Hunts Post: It just shows the strength of feeling in the town that I can go round the town in an hour and get so many signatures. If developments of this type, with free parking, are allowed on the ring road the town centre will suffer dreadfully. St Ivians want a town centre. Its not just these plans, its the same with the proposed hotel [on the ring road]. That was withdrawn, but what could be built there could have a drastic effect on the rest of the town so we will fight that as well. Jane Bowd, town centre manager, said: Out-of-town shopping has always been a threat to any town centre and in this economic climate, even more so. While the St Ives Town Initiative acknowledge the retails outlets on our industrial estate, any new development would seriously detract from our town centre. A decision on the application is due on May 23.