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Supermarket plan causes friction and ructions

Traders fall out over plans for supermarket outside Herne Bay

A group of Bay business people is backing plans for a giant supermarket outside the town. Herne Bay Town Partners has agreed to support Sainsbury's bid for a store on the new Altira Business Park at Beltinge, despite council bosses trying to attract a supermarket to the town centre as part of regeneration plans.

Sainsbury's has a pre-let agreement with developers Terrace Hill for a 95,000 sq ft superstore and petrol station on the business park, near the driving test centre. Minutes seen by the Times state:

"The business group have recently met and discussed the proposed plans that Sainsbury's have to open a major retail unit on the outskirts of Herne Bay. It has been indicated that Sainsbury's will apply for planning permission before the end of the year. The group suggested we should endorse Sainsbury's proposal and, when the time is right, arrange to meet their development team to encourage them to support the town."

But a row between mattress shop boss Dylan Hampshire, who opposed the decision, and former director of the group Geoff Wimble led to Mr Wimble quitting in disgust. Former pawn shop boss Mr Wimble said:

"Sainsbury's should tell the council to get back in its little box and shut up. The council messed up the chance to get a supermarket in the bus station because it said the area was a flood risk. We want to support the town and now Dylan Hampshire is running around like a child with a smacked bottom complaining that an out-of-town supermarket would kill the traders. There's no proof."

Mr Hampshire, who runs Cockett's Mattresses in the High Street, said:

"I know Geoff is passionate about the town and has done a lot for it. But I think the Town Partners were too quick in supporting Sainsbury's at Altira without any corresponding pressure to promote the central development. There needs to be redoubling of effort to encourage a supermarket to Herne Bay."

Herne Bay councillor Peter Lee, who is in charge of the regeneration plans, said the city council's preferred option was still a major store for the town centre – a plan which received almost unanimous approval. He added:

"The council is confident that it can withstand any out-of-town development on the strength of public support for the plan. Herne Bay Town Partners are, of course, entitled to their view, but I don't believe that it will have much public support. Most people don't want to see Herne Bay Town Centre decline in the way that so many others have when faced with out-of-town competition."

thisiskent 14th Aug 2012

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