Consultants for supermarket giant Sainsbury´s revealed their plans for a store in Marlborough to members of the business community on Wednesday.
The 15,000 square-foot store at the old Wiltshire Council Depot on Salisbury Road would stock mainly food (90 percent) with small convenience ranges of magazines and books, CDs and household items, business leaders were told.
A special meeting of Marlborough Chamber of Commerce, which was held at the Ivy House Hotel and attracted 16 members of the business community, heard there would be parking for 172 cars and pedestrian access would be improved, linking the supermarket to the housing estates on the eastern edge of town.
A new roundabout on Salisbury Road would improve access to the site for shoppers and the four to five lorries a day delivering to the store.
The shop, which would probably open from 8am to 10pm, would create between 100 and 150 full time equivalent jobs, the meeting heard.
Sainsbury´s conceded that there would be no room for them and Tesco, whose application for a virtually identical supermarket just up the road at Marlborough Business Park is due to go before planners next Thursday (March 18).
Rob Pearson, a planning consultant for Sainsbury´s, said an independent survey conducted on behalf of Tesco suggested that 50 percent of the town´s population was leaving Marlborough to shop in neighbouring towns and cities.
Their findings had led Sainsbury´s to believe that there was, indeed, enough of a market to warrant the firm building a new supermarket in the town.
"Tesco has done a fair amount of work in establishing the principles for a supermarket in Marlborough," admitted Mr Pearson.
Tony Cook, a land agent for Sainsbury´s, said the firm had been looking at Marlborough for a couple of years. He had visited the Business Park, but realised the depot site was superior, he told the meeting.
"Unfortunately it took the council a while to tender for bids," said Mr Cook, explaining why Sainsbury´s had not announced its own plans until the Tesco application was due to be considered.
"But our offer (to buy the land) has been accepted," he said, revealing that Sainsbury´s had outbid not only the developers of live/work accommodation, plans for which were common knowledge, but also a bid by rival supermarket chain Morrison´s.
David Dudley, owner of the renowned Marlborough High Street jewellers, said he believed the effects of a supermarket on the outskirts of town would be detrimental to the town centre.
Mr Cook said: "I looked at many sites, but couldn´t make any of them work."
Andrew Davies, manager of the 25,000 sq ft Waitrose supermarket in Marlborough High Street - the town´s only supermarket since the departure of M&S Simply Food and the Somerfield that preceded it - asked whether the town could support more than one mid-range supermarket.
"No, there´s only room for one," said Mr Cook.
Phil Birkett from Acceler8 Motoring Service asked "If Tesco gets planning consent, where does that leave you?" Mr Pearson replied: "We´d have to look at how strong Tesco´s case was."
When asked by Julie Chelchowski, of Kitchenmonger, whether there would be a trade-off of sites between Tesco and Sainsbury´s, where one side conceded Marlborough in favour of another town, Mr Cook said: "In 30 years I´ve never known Sainsbury´s to trade off. It´s like America and Russia during the Cold War.
Mr Cook acknowledged that if Sainsbury´s was forced to withdraw its application, the land would probably be sold for housing. "It´s the residential value of the land that underpins this, and we would have to make our money back," he said.
Sainsbury´s denied their plans involved the future expansion of the store from a 15,000 sq ft base, to which few people would object, and offered assistance in ´kick-starting´ a Chamber-led parking refunds scheme to encourage residents to use town centre shops.
In common with Tesco, one thing Sainsbury´s doesn´t intend to bring with it is a petrol station. Marlborough currently has one petrol station, which only accepts cash payments and has a reputation for higher than average prices at the pumps.
*Sainsbury´s was due to submit a planning application to Wiltshire Council today (Friday, 12 March) and expects to hear a decision by June.
Tesco´s application will be determined by members of the eastern area planning committee at the council chamber, Wiltshire Council Offices, Browfort, Devizes from 6pm on Thursday, March 18, with a recommendation from council officials to grant full planning permission.
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