SAINSBURY’S is hoping to move into the site of the landmark Ramada Jarvis Hotel in Wetherby.
The company has this week confirmed to the Wetherby News that it has struck a deal to buy the hotel subject to winning planning approval.
And although no formal plans have yet been submitted, Sainsbury’s representative Local Dialogue has already written letters to people living in the immediate vicinity.
It has also pledged to keep people informed “every step of the way”.
However, the move has been met with anger among local people, with one - John Robson - describing it as having “potentially massive implications.”
Mr Robson, who lives at Micklethwaite Grove and whose home backs on to the proposed site, said:
“Our house is slap bang in the middle of this. There’s no way we can escape it.
“From a personal point of view this could have massive personal implications. Who’d want to buy a house next to a supermarket? I wouldn’t. My house is my pension and if these plans go ahead it could be virtually un-sellable.
“But the implications are much wider than that. A Sainsbury’s in Wetherby would ruin the look of the town. Imagine coming off the A1 and seeing a supermarket with a car park full of cars. It’s hardly the image of an historic markettown.
“The Leeds Road out of Wetherby is essentially a country road - it’s got the feel of a country road. If they build a supermarket there all you’ll see is a constant stream of cars.
“And think of the small, independent shops in Wetherby. The kind of things that give Wetherby its charm. They’d be under serious threat.
“I have written to Sainsbury’s to ask for specifics about any application - when we’ll get to see them, what the extent of the store might be. We need to know that.”
Mr Johnson’s views were echoed by Wetherby ward councillor Gerald Wilkinson, who said any such development could spell disaster for independent town centre businesses.
“My personal opinion is that if a supermarket was created on that site it would have a seriously detrimental effect on the viability of Wetherby town centre,” he said.
“I will be opposing it.
“Shop keepers are already struggling in the current climate and this could be the final straw for many.
“I don’t think there is any need for an additional supermarket. We already have Morrisons, which has expanded significantly, and there are two other medium-sized supermarkets nearby.
“I doubt Wetherby is big enough for two big supermarkets.”
If Sainsbury’s plans come to fruition it would leave Wetherby with four supermarkets in or around the town centre.
Wetherby’s Business Association chairman Rosemary Nicholson believes the town is now at virtual saturation point and is “vehemently against” any development of the Ramada Jarvis.
“There is just no need for this,” she said.
“It has been threatening us for so long now. Before the Micklethwaite development was built there was the threat of a supermarket. We were vehemently against it then and the same arguments apply now.
“We now have a good cross-section of shops and independent retailers in Wetherby town centre. There is a really good reason to come here.
“The fear is that if there’s a supermarket just outside of town people won’t have the incentive to come into town.
“I want to stress that I’m not anti-competition, I think competition is healthy, but there is no need for this development. I, for one, am opposed to it.”
The move will also call into question the provision of hotel rooms in Wetherby, with only two major hotels - the Days Inn at the service station and the Bridge Inn at Walshford - remaining if the Ramada were to close.
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