Stores bid for sites in Northamptonshire growth town

Lawrence's factory Tesco want to demolish this former factory and build a supermarket but campaigners are fighting the plan

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Two supermarkets are fighting to win sites for new stores in a growing town in Northamptonshire.

The battle for sites in Desborough involve Sainsbury's, Tesco, Kettering Borough Council and a group campaigning to preserve 17th Century cottages and a former factory site.

The borough council wants to bring new vitality to the town centre and hopes that a supermarket will be the catalyst but it wants to stay within its own planning objectives.

The population in Northamptonshire is growing and the 'big four' supermarket companies - ASDA, Sainsbury's, Tesco and Morrisons - are responding in kind.

Five new stores have been approved in the county, with two in Kettering and two in the west of the county.

The BBC contacted every UK planning authority to discover how many shops from the big four received planning permission between 1 November 2008 and 1 November 2010.

Race for Space illustration

The research includes applications for new stores as well as for lit advertising signs, an indicator of a store which does not need full planning permission because it has previously been used for retail purposes.

In the two years to November 39 new supermarkets were given planning permission across the East and if all current applications are approved at least 32 more will go ahead.

One of two sites being targeted in Desborough is the RS Lawrence's shoe factory site on the High Street sold by the Midland Co-operative Society to Kettering Borough Council for £2m and now belonging to Tesco.

Start Quote

It is our view that (a supermarket)... would have a devastating impact on a large number of businesses in Desborough”

End Quote The Co-op

The factory was sold by the Co-op with a covenant to prevent the site being used for retail purposes.

The other site being considered is at Magnetic Park, an estate of mainly industrial units north of the town, where Sainsbury's wants to build a new £20m branch.

Technically this is out of town but plans for growth in Desborough mean that within a decade it could be at the heart of the community.

Chart showing planning applications by supermarket

A campaign group objects to the Tesco plan and says the site should be used for a community centre, housing and mixed developments instead.

Kettering Borough Council planners rejected the first application from Sainsbury's at Magnetic Park on the grounds that the foodstore and petrol station would have "an adverse impact of the vitality and viability of the existing town centre".

The council said it would also "not help to regenerate the existing fragile town centre".

On the other hand the development at the Lawrence site was seen as favourable to the town centre.

A council report said "mixed use development of the Lawrence site did not meet the requirements of the development brief and was not financially viable".

Growing population

A feasibility study commissioned by the council supported the development of a supermarket.

A spokeswoman for the campaigners said the Lawrence factory was sold to the council by the Midlands Co-op "on the understanding that the land would be used to create a mixed-use development which would help to create jobs and regenerate the town centre".

The Co-op said of the supermarket plan: "It is our view that this would be hugely detrimental to the character of the town centre and would have a devastating impact on a large number of businesses in Desborough."

Their covenant was intended to prevent the site from ever becoming a supermarket.

Kettering Borough Council believes the lifting of the covenant would be an expensive and time-consuming process and would be left to the supermarket making a planning application.

Sainsbury's has tabled a second planning application and Tesco has now made one for the Lawrence factory site.

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