ALLOWING supermarket giant Asda to create a new store in Smallwood could devastate the town centre and lead to more empty shops, a business group has warned.
Redditch Town Centre Partnership has formally objected to plans put forward by Asda which would see a 50,000 square foot supermarket created out of the current B&Q store off Jinnah Road, which would be shrunk to half its current size. As well as groceries the store would sell clothing, CDs, DVDs, books and homeware and create 400 new jobs.
But the TCP has appealed to planners to reject the application when it is considered, expected to be around June.
The group says while it is not against Asda, the proposal breaches planning policies designed to protect the town centre and provides extra competition for those businesses within it, while the jobs on offer would not be accessible by those without a car.
Attracting a supermarket into the town centre is also seen as a key part of its future regeneration, with the vacant site on Church Road and the Kingfisher Shopping Centre the most likely locations.
The letter states: “The Asda proposal seeks to maximise the revenue generated from Redditch Town Centre patrons, and the wider catchment, whilst minimising their investment in infrastructure and local area.
“Strategically, any approval of this application will have a major impact on the ability for Redditch town centre to attract any other major brand supermarket in the future and will further frustrate the regeneration of redundant/ derelict space already identified for retail use.”
Mark Bourgeois, executive director for Capital & Regional which jointly owns the Kingfisher Shopping Centre, said they believed a store based in the centre would be more accessible to residents, particularly those without a car, and they had already identified a viable location for a supermarket.
“We strongly believe, consistent with government policy, investment should be directed to the town centre to maintain and enhance a vibrant environment for people to enjoy,” he said.
“Our shoppers have made clear their desire to see a supermarket within the town and so we intend to explore and bring forward these proposals.”
But Asda say they continue to enjoy support for their scheme from residents, with 95 per cent of 250 people who attended a public exhibition last December backing the plans citing greater shopping choice, the new jobs and the confidence shown in Redditch by a multi-million pound investment. Redditch MP Karen Lumley has also given her support to the plans.
Philip Bartram, Asda’s senior property communications manager, said together with B&Q they were progressing their application as quickly as possible.
“We continue to be extremely pleased with the widespread support from within the local community. Feedback from the public exhibition back in December was hugely encouraging and it is equally encouraging to note how the support has continued to roll on.”