A date has been set to decide whether Sainsbury’s can build a superstore in Cheddar or not.
The development committee of Sedgemoor District Council is aiming to decide on Tuesday, January 15, 2013 – no time set as yet – at the council’s Bridgwater House headquarters.
Six of the 15-strong deciding committee came to Cheddar to hear direct from Sainsbury’s the answers to the village’s burning questions on Wednesday last week – where the supermarket giant got a hot reception from locals in the Kings of Wessex Academy’s hall.
Sainsbury’s wants to build on Steart Farm on Wedmore Road and the shop’s representatives were corrected several times with shouts from the floor that Cheddar was a village, not a town.
Though levity broke through when one challenging audience member was corrected en-masse that Axbridge was indeed a town and not a village.
Committee chairman Bob Filmer made repeated calls for order with the audience shouting down answers from Sainsbury’s in the first half of the meeting.
In response one female attendee hurled back: “We’re angry.”
Questions were supplied in advance by the community and grouped together in common themes like roads, retail, design, tourism and others.
Despite the numerous questions posed, general consensus challenged Sainsbury’s stance on the alleged unsuitability of the road network, visual impact and threatening livelihoods in the village.
In turn answers from Sainsbury’s representatives fluctuated between its confidence in its traffic and retail reports, shortened journeys for shoppers who would typically go outside the village and referring to similar issues overcome at Odd Down and Ottery St Mary stores in Bath and Devon.
On the subject of money “leaking” out of Cheddar to supermarkets in Wells and beyond, Bruno Moore, Sainsbury’s town planning lead, said: “There will be employment with this store but it’s about bringing expenditure back to Cheddar. We need to work hard with local traders to improve the village centre. I’m not an apologist for Sainsbury’s. That’s not something I’m ashamed of or pretend otherwise. The site would complement the village centre.”
Sainsbury’s predicts that the 13 per cent of residents’ money spent in Cheddar will rise to 44 per cent with the new store.
Sainsbury’s claimed their store would not force Budgens or others to close. In response, Sedgemoor revealed it has hired retail experts to pore over the firm’s retail report to check claims of impact on the village.
No rebuttal or clarification over Sainsbury’s answers on roads and transport could be provided as no representative of Somerset County Council’s highways department was present, prompting several outbursts and walkouts.
Members of Sedgemoor’s development committee were only allowed to listen and not take part in the meeting.
The next meeting to be held in Bridgwater will follow its traditional format of pre-registered speakers being allowed three minutes to speak their mind.