'Hollow claims' row over Ottery Tesco plans

OTTERY town councillor Claire Wright is demanding that supermarket giant, Tesco enlarge on its continued claim that a store on the old Cutler Hammer factory site would draw business into Ottery town centre- ""when the company s own maths paint the opposite picture"".

OTTERY town councillor Claire Wright is demanding that supermarket giant, Tesco enlarge on its continued claim that a store on the old Cutler Hammer factory site would draw business into Ottery town centre, "when the company's own maths paint the opposite picture".

Cllr Wright, who represents West Hill on Ottery St Mary Town Council, told over 100 people gathered to hear Ottery Town Council's decision on Tesco's planning application, that despite Tesco's repeated assertion that a store at the factory site would bring more business into the town, the supermarket's own paperwork states that shops in Ottery would suffer a nine per cent drop in turnover by 2014, as a direct result of the store's presence.

Tesco's corporate affairs manager Juliette Bishop has hit back saying: "It is important not to take selective figures and quote them out of context".

Cllr Wright, who declared a prejudicial interest in the application at the meeting and did not vote on the proposal, said: "Tesco have a duty to explain to the planners and the people of Ottery how they can continue trotting out this nonsense when their own research comes up with such dramatically different conclusions."

"Tesco's retail impact statement (p22) reveals that a store opening on the factory site could mean a �369,000 drop for businesses in the town by 2014. And these calculations were taken before the recession started, so this can only be a best case scenario."

The planning inspector who rejected Tesco's appeal to build a bigger store in Ottery Moor Lane, Honiton, earlier this year stated in his report that he did not believe that local traders could withstand even a six and a half per cent loss of trade, particularly in a recession. That's two and a half per cent less than a predicted effect on Ottery.

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"I am also worried about the effect an edge-of-town Tesco store in Ottery would have on small shops in surrounding villages at Tipton St John, Alfington and West Hill. They could close and vulnerable people without transport will be most affected if this happens."

Cllr Wright continued: "It is appalling that Tesco continues to make these hollow claims when the truth is carefully buried in one of the 40 or so weighty and technical documents submitted with its application.

"Nine per cent is clearly an intolerable loss of turnover and I would be very worried indeed that if the application was passed, Ottery town would die.

"It is no wonder that people are cynical about supermarkets' claims. I want Tesco to properly explain how their store would help the town's businesses and I don't want to hear the tired argument about 90 per cent of shopping going outside the town. Local people deserve straight answers."

She added: "This revelation should ring very loud alarm bells with the planners and the councillors on the planning committee at East Devon District Council. There surely can be only one destination for this application - and that's the rubbish bin."

In response, Tesco spokesperson Ms Bishop argued: "East Devon District Council's own studies show that there is capacity for a supermarket in Ottery and that there is considerable leakage of trade from the town. We do not believe that our proposed small store would have a negative impact on town centre shops. All the evidence is that it will encourage more people to use them instead of shops in other centres where they do their supermarket shopping.

"We have stressed to both the town council and to the Chamber of Commerce that we will do all we can to help Ottery Town Centre thrive. It is not in our interest for the town centre to decline. We want a vibrant town centre that we can enhance by reducing the number of people who travel out of the town to do their supermarket shopping.

"The size of our proposed store is almost identical to that proposed in East Devon District Council's study and will not impact on the excellent specialist shops that Ottery has. Our store would also revitalise what is an unattractive looking entrance to the town.