Page last updated at 10:03 GMT, Friday, 16 April 2010 11:03 UK

Sainsbury's beats Tesco in Ottery St Mary store bid

Ottery St Mary
Some businesses fear shops will be forced to close

Sainsbury's has beaten Tesco in a battle to build a supermarket in a Devon town.

East Devon District Council approved the plans for a 20,000 sq ft store in Ottery St Mary.

The fierce rivalry has focused attention on how politicians can help rural businesses.

Sainsbury's said the store, due to open before Christmas and employing more than 200 people, would "breathe new life into the High Street".

Tesco, which proposed a smaller store at a disused factory site, said it was "disappointed" at East Devon District Council's decision.

Some businesses are concerned that the store will hit the trade of smaller shops in the town.

Chris Abbott, of Abbott's DIY shop in Ottery St Mary, said: "A big supermarket will kill the small independent grocers, butchers and bakers.

"With family businesses at risk, it really is a crying shame."

In a small town like ours, our local shops are very much the heart and soul of what we are about
Helen Collinson, Sustainable Ottery

Helen Collinson, of Sustainable Ottery, said: "On a human level shops are a point of social contact.

"Elderly and vulnerable people rely on shopkeepers. They deliver to their doors. They look out for them if they don't turn up.

"In a small town like ours, our local shops are very much the heart and soul of what we are about."

Bruno Moore, Sainsbury's regional town planning manager, said: "We are delighted with the council's decision and would like to give special thanks to the traders and residents that spoke so eloquently in support of our scheme.

"This was recognised by East Devon District Council's planning committee, who responded to the wishes of the local people and also agreed that a central Sainsbury's store coupled with free shoppers' car parking would help breath new life into the High Street.

"What's more, it was understood that a store of the size proposed would offer the variety needed for people to do a weekly food shop in Ottery."

'Getting a balance'

Devon East Labour candidate Gareth Manson said: "I like small shops when they are selling local goods but some people like to shop in big supermarkets.

"It is about getting a balance. Supermarkets should not be so big that they dominate trade in the town."

Conservative candidate Hugo Swire said: "The community is divided among those that believe it will bring more trade into the town and others that believe it will destroy small traders.

"Communities must have more say in what goes on. I would like to see small shops survive, to give identity and character to the community."

Liberal Democrat Paull Robathan said: "We have to understand the impact on the community and the community should have a large say in the planning process.

"A lot of planning has been taken out of local control and therefore not as much weight is given to local opinion."

Devon East: UK Independence Party: Mike Amor; Labour: Gareth Manson; Green: Sharon Pavey; Liberal Democrat: Paull Robathan; Conservative: Hugo Swire.

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