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Tesco's proposed expansion will kill off the town centre?

10th March 2010
By Peter Chapman

On Friday 19th February, I went along to the Tesco superstore in Burgess Hill to view the plans of their proposed 50% expansion.

Tesco plan to expand in size mainly to the right of the building with parking spaces being built on the piece of wasteland that splits the store from a housing estate. This piece of land could also be the site for the Burgess Hill Baptist Church; they are looking to move from their current location in Station Road.

The increase in size will see Tesco stocking a much wider range of goods including technology equipment and clothing.

Tesco's planned growth will see it become almost a 'one stop shop', convenient for shoppers, but will it be to the detriment of the town centre?

Shops such as WHSmith, Currys, Peacocks could all suffer a loss in trade if shoppers can find the similar items in Tesco for a cheaper price.

I asked one of the representatives at the planning exhibition about the potential impact on the town centre; I was told that a bigger Tesco would benefit the local economy as it would lessen the need for people to travel to Brighton and Crawley to do their shopping.

A bigger Tesco will create 100 full-time and part-time jobs. Will staff from town centre shops that are forced to close due to Tesco's dominance fill some of these new job opportunities?

There are two designs that Tesco were asking shoppers to state their preference on.
Option 1 is simply an extended version of the existing building, sporting the same tiled roof. Option 2 features a framework of big glass panels and a flat roof.

I spoke to a different representative about the two options, I pointed out that clearly Option 1 would be more popular as it fits in with the surrounding residential buildings but that Tesco would blatantly choose Option 2 as it would be cheaper to make.

The spokesman confirmed that Option 1 had proved to be the most popular decision so far and denied that Option 2 would be cheaper to make. He said that Option 2 would be quicker to construct as it doesn't require a complex roof, additionally, the glass panels can be reused.

A building that would be quicker to make would clearly result in lower labour costs. Reusable materials would also represent a saving. Which option do you think Tesco would prefer to construct? Here's a clue, it's not number one!

Another media outlet incorrectly reported that Tesco would be building the new Baptist Church. I spoke to a member of the Burgess Hill Baptist Church at Tesco. He told me that the only connection with Tesco is that they would let the Church use their car park. Additionally, the Church may use the same construction company in order to save on costs.

What this means is that Tesco's Section 106 obligation has not yet been identified.
It's up to Mid Sussex District Council to choose how Tesco can benefit the town.
How about a new paddling pool in St Johns Park?

Of course, none of this is ever going to happen.
Mid Sussex District Council have the final say on whether Tesco can expand or not.
If the feared exodus from the town centre has some substance, then the council will clearly deny Tesco planning permission.

If people don't shop in the town centre, then the council will lose out on a huge source of income - the car parks. The Conservative run council have had some high profile gaffs with public money and need the car park revenue to bump up their coffers.

Lets not also forget MSDC's 'Support the local traders' campaign. They have been urging the public to shop locally, conveniently that requires you to use their car parks in the process.

We'll soon find out how much MSDC really care about the local retailers when the decision day for Tesco's expansion comes up.

They wouldn't be so stupid as to rubberstamp Tesco's planning application, would they?

What do you make of the proposed Tesco expansion? Will it be a good thing for the town? Do you think the council will give Tesco the green light? What would you like to see Tesco contribute to the town in return for being allowed their bigger superstore?

Let us know by emailing news@burgesshilluncovered.co.uk
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