TRADERS in Christchurch have turned their back on £1million amid grave concerns about three major supermarket applications.
At a meeting of Christchurch Chamber of Trade on Monday, traders looked upon a £1million “town centre fund” offered by one of the three developers, with scepticism.
They were there to form a response on the three proposals for large food stores in the borough, which are due to go before councillors at Christchurch during a special planning meeting on June 14.
The three separate applications are for a Morrisons at Stony Lane on the site of Beagle Technology, a riverside development at Bailey Retail Park and a revised application for a supermarket at Meteor Park in Somerford.
Traders were taken through the different aspects of each application including the proposal of a £1million fund from Bournemouth-based developers Quantum, who are behind the Bailey Retail Park scheme.
If this had been accepted it would have been divided into an innovation fund of £350,000, an economic development fund of £200,000 and a BID fund of £450,000 to kick-start a Christchurch town centre BID.
But traders and business owners, mindful of the significant impact any of the schemes are likely to have on the town centre, said they felt unable to support any of them.
They did decide that the “lesser of the three evils” was the Meteor Park scheme, due to its distance from the town and the probability a large housing development may be built nearby at Roeshot Hill.
President Peter Watson-Lee said: “Obviously this is an unprecedented situation Christchurch is in.
“I do not think the council have ever found themselves in this position and because of all the plans we are a player in the situation and our views are being sought and listened to.”
He added: “Obviously we are concerned about the diversion of trade with all of the applications and it will be damaging for the town.
“Our position as the Chamber of Trade is that we are opposed to any of the supermarkets coming into town.
“Despite our previous position to Meteor Park it is probably the lesser of three evils.”
Concerns were also raised about the impact such a large new supermarket would have on the existing Waitrose, Marks and Spencer and Co-operative.
With many people relying on the footfall Waitrose in particular brings to the town centre, calls were made to protect the existing businesses and devise a way to improve the trading situation in the town.
In a statement David Hines, chief executive of Quantum: “Our proposals for a new mixed use development at Bailey Drive comprises amongst other things 25 new affordable dwellings, a low cost gym, new pedestrian bridge over the Stour, play park, statue to Sir Donald Bailey and new waterfront landscaping, as well as the supermarket itself.
“This will create 375 new jobs and will provide a huge boost by creating new wealth and preventing the loss of spend into neighbouring boroughs.
“We calculate the value of the community benefits we are proposing to be in the region of £6m and within this have ring fenced £1m for initiatives to enhance the High Street.
“We are talking to the council, chamber of trade and commerce and other stakeholders saying we have an open mind how this money could be deployed and its exact legal mechanism would be sorted out as part of any planning consent.
“The objective however is clear. We need to strengthen our retail, leisure and tourism proposition and for this you need money at a time when budgets are being cut.
“A £1m war chest could make a massive difference to Christchurch in these recessionary times. Suggestions we have received have ranged from free parking, transport improvements, a town centre manager to more events like the food festival. The list is endless.
“From our many recent conversations and community engagement events we have observed a huge public pride in Christchurch but a massive frustration that more could be done to strengthen its prosperity.
“We see our proposed £1m ‘war chest’, together with the mixed use development at Bailey Drive, as improving the district and town centres, providing a massive boost to the area from new jobs and homes, creating and retaining wealth in the local area, even yielding more rates for the council.”