SUPERMARKET giant Waitrose has expressed an interest in coming to Torrington.
Torrington Town Council was told last night that Waitrose has made an approach to Torridge District Council.
The company, which has stores in Holsworthy and Okehampton, has not yet submitted a formal planning application.
It's understood the site being considered is privately owned land next to Sydney House car park.
The proposal, which is understood to be for a 14,000sq metre store, could create up to 130 jobs in the town.
The supermarket company has contacted Torridge District Council to ask about getting access to the site through the council-owned car park.
A discussion about the car park had been scheduled to be heard behind closed doors but town councillors made the decision to move it to the public part of the meeting.
Town councillors only heard the news this week and questioned whether the town needed another supermarket.
Mayor of Torrington Margaret Brown said: “We have taken it up with Torridge and expressed our disappointment at being informed at this late date.
"It could have an effect on trading days we have in the town. We’re very angry about it as ward members.”
Councillor Geoff Lee said: “It’s an honourable idea but treat it with great caution.”
Councillor Mel Bushell, who was co-opted onto Torrington Town Council last night, said: “It might be worth speaking to Holsworthy to see if Waitrose has brought any benefits to the town. I can see people going out of their way to go to a Waitrose. It’s like the Harrods of supermarkets.”
Councillor Sue Mills said she was surprised to hear Waitrose had approached Torridge: “I hadn’t got a clue. I was one of the ones who didn’t agree to Lidl. I just think it’s wrong the way it has gone about.”
Councillor Catherine Simmons said she felt the supermarket should be situated in the town centre.
She said: “I’ve long held that we should have a supermarket in the town but I feel it’s in the wrong place. It should be in the town centre.
"I think it should be on South Street so it is part of the town centre and can create footfall.
"I think the most important thing is to keep the town vibrant but I’m not sure this will do that. If it was right in the town centre I would be all for it.”
Councillor John Kelly said members of the public had approached him over the years to ask why an application for Tesco in Torrington was turned down and said he would like to see the Waitrose proposal put forward.
He said: “Many years ago we had the option to build a supermarket. We did a vote and it was turned town. Since then people have come to me by the score to ask why.
"I think it will do the town a world of good but there is always the concern it will do what Tesco has in Barnstaple and build a second store. I would love to see it go forward.”
Councillor Andy Boyd questioned whether there was a need for three supermarkets in the town.
He said: "I am concerned that they’re looking at a building something three times the size of Lidl. I think that’s quite a large store to have in the town.
“I have spoken to a few traders. There were around 50/50 for and against.
"There needs to be a survey of need to convince us. Is there a need for three supermarkets in the town. We need an impact survey on the town traders, what will happen in five years time? We have a couple of bakers and butchers, will they still be there? Initially we were told about 130 jobs, that’s fairly standard for a new store.
"I was very upset this was held back from us."
Town Clerk Michael Tighe said: “Your town will be changed forever”
In a statement this afternoon Jenny Wallace, Torridge District Council's Head of Paid Service, said: "Within the last two weeks the council has had initial discussions concerning a proposed scheme to build on privately-owned land adjacent to the Sydney House car park in Great Torrington.
"As the only way in would be through the council-owned car park, the developer approached us to discuss potential access options.
"The Town Council were informed of these discussions at the earliest practical opportunity, mindful of the commercial sensitivities involved."
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