Supermarket giant Tesco has withdrawn its controversial plans for a superstore on the Broadlands estate, on the outskirts of Romsey.
When first announced in January, 2012 the proposals for a 35,000 square foot shop off the bypass were met by a storm of protest from the public and town centre traders and scores of “Say No to Tesco” posters soon appeared in windows.
Tesco claimed that surveys showed Romsey needed a second large supermarket as almost half of shoppers in the town did their food shopping elsewhere.
However, in a statement this week the firm claimed the retail landscape had changed.
Jack Pearson, Tesco’s regional corporate affairs manager, said: “As we announced earlier this year we are building fewer large stores. Customers are increasingly shopping online and in convenience stores and we have reconsidered our proposal in the light of these changing habits.
“We know this will be disappointing news for the many people in Romsey who have supported our plans.
“We will continue to serve our customers in Romsey through our home delivery service and from our other local stores.”
He said that Tesco had no plans for a convenience store in the Romsey area nor could he put a figure on the cost of the abortive planning process.
Last April Tesco announced that it was to ditch plans to open more than 100 major new stores but at the time it said the Romsey plan, which it claimed would create 200 jobs, would continue.
However, in July of this year Tesco announced its worst sales results in more than two decades. Profits were down 3.8 per cent and its market share fell from 30.3 per cent in 2013 to 28.9 per cent. The chain’s chief executive Philip Clarke announced he would step down in October.
Colin Burgess, chairman of the Say No to Tesco campaign, said the Romsey announcement had come as a “very pleasant shock”.
“It’s taken Tesco nearly three years to come round to our point of view,” he said.
“I think there are some executives who are trying to save their skins before they are called to account for a wrong decision when their new CEO arrives,” he said.
While many small traders in Romsey will be rejoicing at the news, it comes as blow to Broadlands who would have made millions from leasing the 6.5 acre site, known as the Fairground Field, to Tesco.
Estates manager, Richard Jordan Baker, told the Advertiser: “This news obviously comes as a great disappointment after so much hard work.
“However, we must accept and respect Tesco’s decision. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the people in Romsey who have lent their support to this project. All the letters, emails and logs from telephone conversations of support we have received will be archived for posterity.
“Broadlands will now take stock and consider the way forward.’ Mr Jordan-Baker said that the estate was pursuing other projects, including an 80-acre solar farm.
In recent months Tesco had gone quiet on the Romsey scheme and it was believed the application had stalled because of disagreements with the county council’s highways department over the levels of traffic a new shop would generate.
Romsey and District Society also disputed Tesco’s traffic figures and conducted their own survey, which they claimed showed that the supermarket had underestimated the levels of congestion a store on the bypass would cause.
Lib Dem town, borough and county councillor, Mark Cooper, commented: “The traffic surveys done by Tesco never did stack up. It's important to keep Romsey Bypass free flowing in order to allow traffic to enter and exit the town without too long a hold up. “ He added: “This is the best piece of news for the vitality and viability of the town centre that there could have been."