SUPERMARKET bosses have threatened to withdraw plans to open a town centre store in Wallingford if a competitor decides to go ahead with another new development in the area.
In September, the Co-operative Group submitted a £1.5m plan to South Oxfordshire District Council to open a food store at the former Waitrose site in St Martin’s Street.
The store has been empty since Waitrose switched to a new location at the other end of the street in 2004.
In recent years, the Co-op owned site, has housed a number of different pop-up stores but is now empty and civic leaders are desperate for it to be redeveloped.
Town council leaders have told planning authority SODC that they approve of the planning application.
But Co-op bosses have indicated they could withdraw the application for the convenience store and seven flats if Morrisons gets the go-ahead for a new mid-sized store and petrol filling station on the Hithercroft industrial estate.
The announcement would be “disastrous” for the town, it has been claimed. Town council clerk Andrew Rogers said: “The Co-op says it is unlikely to proceed if Morrisons gets planning permission for its new supermarket.
“The Co-op felt there would be insufficient business for Waitrose, the Co-op convenience store and Morrisons.
“Some town councillors feel the Co-op is putting pressure on the town council and the district council to think about the consequences of granting planning permission to Morrisons. With at least 500 new homes being built in the Wallingford area there should be sufficient business for Waitrose, Morrisons and a Co-op.”
Town councillor Lynda Atkins said: “Co-op were effectively saying ‘if you want your town centre sorted out, then don’t back Morrisons’.
“The presentation didn’t go down too well with some councillors.”
Elaine Hornsby, a spokesman for Wallingford in Business, which represents some independent traders in the town, said she had written to SODC council leaders to urge them to consider the Co-op planning application at the earliest possible opportunity.
She added: “I think we have to get the Co-op in the town centre before a decision is made on Morrisons.
“If Morrisons get planning permission and then the Co-op say they are not coming then I think that would be disastrous for the town centre.”
The Morrisons store would create 300 full and part-time jobs and a planning application is being prepared.
Co-op spokesman James Lewis said: “Waitrose has a purpose-built supermarket in the town centre and if Morrisons built a similar store on the outskirts then the competition for the Co-op could be too great, even if it had longer trading hours.”