MP David Rutley has warned a new Tesco superstore could suck the lifeblood out of the town centre – but said it’s not a done deal.
More than 210 campaigners, traders, councillors and residents joined an open meeting at St Michael’s Church to discuss plans to replace the Hibel Road store with a Tesco Extra twice the size at Barracks Mill.
Campaigns have been gathering pace and include a Facebook page, online petition and a No To Tesco Extra website.
David Rutley speaks at the meeting ...
No one from Tesco attended but David Mayers, from the church, read the case for the supermarket which says it will provide 300 extra jobs, town centre links, improvements to the Middlewood Way and 1,000 car parking spaces.
The audience heard concerns about traffic, the impact on independent traders and how planners will deal with the application.
No one spoke in favour of the new store, but some said the town should not be too quick to blame Tesco and called for better support for traders.
Andy Bailey, from Silk FM radio, said campaigners may have a tough job after hearing hundreds of listeners in favour of a bigger Tesco store.
Church members surveyed guests and no one raised their hand in support of the proposal – 157 people opposed the plans, 163 said they would not shop at Tesco and 81 said they would campaign against the plans.
But MP David Rutley said Tesco were in listening mode and he would write to its chief executive. Mr Rutley said: "It’s in no way a done deal.
"It’s interesting to look at the timing of the application just before the Wilson Bowden town centre regeneration plans. I would call that cynical – it’s disruptive behaviour.
"We have things to be concerned about, the high percentage of non-food may suck the lifeblood out of the town centre.
"We have got a once-in-a-generation opportunity to get this right and there is still time to put your views across."
Keith Smith, chairman of Macclesfield Civic Society, said he has submitted a nine-page objection.
David Gooda, from Macc2020, said Tesco had done more than most for sustainability, but added: "In my view it’s got a lot further to go than other supermarkets."
Granville Sellars said: "The town is like a giant beehive with everyone contributing to everyone else’s life. Every pound you spend in Tesco is actually going to end up costing each and every one of you dearly."
Granville Sellars speaking at the meeting ...
Tony Slater, resident of 45 years, said: "One pleasure of living in Macclesfield is wandering around the local shops.
"Tesco has a huge share in Macclesfield, Sainsbury’s has got a huge share, that’s enough, we don’t need any more."
Tony Mills, a resident of 30 years, said Macclesfield needs to improve its retail.
He said: "Don’t blame the monster supermarkets as the root of all our problems."
Debbie Quinn, who helps organise the Treacle Market, gave her own call for people to shop locally.
She said: "I have to admit being one of those people guilty of not using local shops, but this has brought home how much Macclesfield means to me and I made one change – to shop at Spearings butchers. It’s cheaper and better quality."
Matthew Magee, Tesco corporate affairs manager, said: "We’ve had some great feedback from people in Macclesfield on the plans we’ve put forward, but are listening to the council and community to make sure we get the right development for the town.
"We would like to bring a major investment to Macclesfield attracting more shoppers into the town and creating new jobs, with around 200 extra posts at our store and up to 100 more at the retail units.
"We want to be part of a thriving town centre and believe our plans can help support and complement the great work that is being done in Macclesfield to promote the town as a retail destination."
Canalside radio will broadcast the debate tomorrow (Thursday) at 6pm.