Developer grilled over Royston convenience store plans

PUBLISHED: 17:28 02 December 2011

PROTESTERS and worried shopkeepers this week met with the developer of a controversial convenience store.

Colin Blundell, of the Manhattan Corporation, was questioned over his firm’s plans to build a store on the site of Royston’s cattle market, which is currently a car park.

The plans were revealed in last week’s Crow and could see a 3,756 square ft store with four flats built above the business.

An initial artist’s impression of the development which had been circulated by protesters had Tesco marked on it – however, there is no client in place, and this was explained as being mistakenly left on the planning application.

But Manhattan Corporation has talked to the firm, as well as Sainsburys, Co-op, and Waitrose in relation to the Market Hill project.

Mr Blundell said: “There’s no client in place, despite the rumours and speculation.

“It will be a national convenience store. We have decided on this as Royston is under-served when it comes to convenience stores. This will bring footfall back to the town.

“I have lived here all my life, 34 years. Everyone I have spoken to has been quite excited by it, retailers and residents.”

It was claimed that an NHDC survey revealed the town was under-served when it came to convenience stores, and the developers have been working closely with the local authority to ensure the site was sympathetic to surrounding listed buildings.

But Market Hill resident Guy Snell, who is campaigning against the development, thinks the building could be overdevelopment, increase parking problems, and affect other retailers.

“My feeling is, I know it’s in the town centre, or what’s defined as the town centre, but it will act as if it is out of town,” he said.

“It’s right up by the A10, and people will come in and go.

“I don’t see what justification we have got that it might increase footfall in the town.”

Mr Blundell replied: “I would say that those going into Tesco at the moment for a five or 10-minute shop don’t come into town.”

Shopkeepers also complained that the shop, which would employ 16 full time staff, could cause them problems, with one man claiming that the proposal had put him off opening a greengrocer’s.

But Sam Hogg, owner of Hogg’s Café – who made it clear to The Crow he did have some issues with the proposal – said concerns might have something to do with what he labelled the “Tesco effect” rather than firm objections.

“I think there is a knee-jerk reaction to Tesco,” he said. “Did Morrisons destroy the town when it opened? Everyone was quite pleased when they turned up.

“I have been a retailer here for more than 10 years and our trade has gone down, but that’s not just because of Tesco.”

To view the application log on to www.north-herts.gov.uk and search for planning application 11/027/44/1.

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