Suffolk

Sainsbury wants to build on Newmarket playing fields

Image caption The playing fields where Sainsbury wants to build are next to the existing Tesco store

High Street traders in Newmarket are warning of proposals from supermarket chains for three out-of-town-centre developments.

Sainsbury's and Morrisons want to build new stores while Tesco wants to replace its existing store with a bigger one.

Smaller shop owners say it would lead to a decline in the town centre.

Tesco wants to double the size of its existing store on Fordham Road, Morrisons wants to build on the gas works site on Exning Road, while Sainsbury is proposing to build on the George Lambton Playing Fields in return for funding improved community sports facilities at Newmarket College.

Robert Hollingsworth, who has a clothes stall on the town centre market, said: "With all the big supermarkets around towns, you've got nothing in town centres any more and you've got to bring that back.

"Without that, towns are dying and you can see that by the empty shops."

Cinema and restaurants

Kevin Pearson, of Golding's clothing store and a member of the Newmarket Retailers Association, said: "The fears are that certain shops will lose business to the bigger supermarkets.

"We're all trying to keep our heads above water, and for electrical stores, you could get good service at the shops in town, but people would perhaps choose price rather than service."

The Sainsbury proposal has been made in conjunction with the George Lambton Playing Fields trustees, who own the land.

It is proposed that half the 23-acre (nine hectare) site would be used for the supermarket, bulky good shops, a cinema and restaurants.

Image caption Newmarket's High Street with the clock tower at the eastern end

School deal

George Lambton, trustee and grandson of the George Lambton the fields are named after, said: "We're putting a lot of the proceeds back into the town.

"People want to see a cinema and the existing retail park at Studlands isn't big enough."

The college would get more of its land flattened to provide space for two more football pitches, while an artificial five-a-side pitch and changing rooms would be built for school and community use.

Bob Cadwalladr, college principal, said: "We may lose some of the George Lambton Playing Fields, but the gain in the use of the new sporting facilities would more than make up for it."

Robert Oxley, Sainsbury's regional development executive said: "Our plans will bring greater choice and competition and 350 new jobs."

James French, spokesman for Morrissons, said: "Morrisons strives to make town centres more of a destination for shoppers.

"In tough times, our stores are providing jobs and investment.

"We always consult extensively with local residents to ensure we provide an offering that responds to their needs and exceeds everyone's expectations."

A Tesco spokesman said "If we can provide more of the goods people want, it will prevent shoppers from Newmarket and surrounding villages from getting in their cars and driving elsewhere.

"By keeping them shopping locally, we can help revitalise the high street."

Formal planning applications from the three supermarkets have yet to be submitted to Forest Heath District Council.

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