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Welshpool’s ‘ghost town’ concern

Created on 15/08/2010 @ 17:02


Welshpool town centre is in danger of becoming a ghost town once the multi-million pound Tesco development opens its doors, according to worried local businesses.
The supermarket giants, along with four confirmed-yet-unnamed retail giants will take residence on the Old Smithfield site before Christmas, sparking fears that local shops and businesses could struggle to compete.
This weekend, Town Clerk Robert Robinson confirmed that the Tesco store would be “all singing and all dancing” containing a large dry goods department and even a cafe. But established companies believe they are not required as the town is well serviced already.
Becky Chapman, from the Corn Store Restaurant on Church Street, is one to voice her concern: “Surely we have sufficient restaurants and cafes in and around the town?” she asked.  “And take a look at the number of shops which have closed over the last 12 months and there are some that have not yet been occupied – surely we need businesses to come and fill these first? There is a lot of concern amongst longstanding businesses in the town centre.”
Mike Kelly, of Vision Appliance on Berriew Street, concedes that they won’t be able to compete on price but believes that customer service and the opportunity to negotiate on deals will keep them in business.
“Our Welshpool shop does very well because of its outstanding customer and after sales service,” he said. “Large supermarkets like Tesco just sell you the goods and don’t give a toss after that but businesses like ours are totally different. We even do deals on multi buyers who are looking for a number of items for a new house for example which you won’t get in Tesco.”
Alexanders has been a mainstay of the town centre for decades and Paul Alexander believes Tesco will erode Welshpool’s unique identity.
“Tesco is a concern for the local shopkeepers, as many of us feel that we’re fighting a losing battle trying to keep people shopping within the town centre,” he said. “Most small businesses feel Tesco are just too big to compete against and will make Welshpool look like other towns in the UK which have depressingly subdued centres because of out-of-town retail parks.  Personally, I would prefer it if Tesco didn’t come to Welshpool.”
Super Scoop owner Richard Davies is also worried. He believes the work on the Spar Car Park, coupled with free parking that is sure to be on offer at Tesco, will be reason enough for people to stay out of town.
“Of course I am concerned,” he said. “The new road system is taking up an area of the Car Park closest to the town centre so people will obviously want to shop at Tesco where parking will be free of charge for sure.”
Lee Bocking runs the popular Raven Inn and has issued a rallying call for local business.
“In my opinion, if you really care about what you are getting: i.e. ripe fruit or a choice cut of meat for example; then visit your local shop,” he said.
Welshpool Town Council is playing its part in trying to ensure shoppers continue to visit the Town Centre by introducing an outdoor market to the main street once the One Way system is in place.
Mywelshpool has followed up the concerns of the local shopkeepers with Tesco and is awaiting a response.
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