PROPOSALS to build a new larger Co-op convenience store in Bere Alston came under scrutiny at a packed public meeting in the village on Wednesday night last week.
The meeting at the Parish Hall was called by Bere Ferrers Parish Council and saw representatives from the Co-op and the developer Westcountry Land reveal more about the plans for which they are seeking planning permission.
The Co-op and the developers are proposing to build the convenience store, which will be three times larger than the current store on Fore Street, telling the audience that the current store on Fore Street was ‘not fit for purpose’.
The Co-op own the store in Fore Street, which has been part of the village street scene since 1945. It was revealed at the meeting that the intention was to relet the store to another retailer.
Some people in the audience agreed with arguments of the Co-op that the store would bring more choice into the village, but there were also worries about the impact on other shops in Fore Street – particularly Downings the Butchers and the pharmacy.It was pointed out that the proposal for a greenfield site went against the village’s own Neighbourhood Plan. Others were concerned about the safety of pedestrians trying to reach the new store, along a a busy road.
‘You say it is a convenience store, but convenient for whom?’ asked one man. ‘The elderly people aren’t going to find it convenient.’
He added: ‘Why can’t the present site be expanded into the back? There is a big shed out the back and a garden, there is plenty of room for expansion.’
However the Co-op representative responded: ‘We have looked at it and it won’t give us the site we need. Tthere would need to be huge excavations out the back ‘We have been looking for a site in Bere Alston for three years and working on this one for two.’
Challenged about why they needed to relocate, he said ‘the back of house operation is very inefficient’ and that they were ‘looking to retain more of the food spend that currently goes out of Bere Alston’. The consultation over the Bere Peninsula Neighbourhood Plan revealed that only eight per cent of resident’s food shopping takes place in Bere Alston, he said. ‘I will hopefully mean that more of you won’t need to go to Tavistock out of Bere Alston to do you shopping. It will save some time and also some money for fuel.
‘We are looking for a site that will secure the future of the Co-op. We have been here for 70 years and by doing this we hope to be here for another 70 years. The store we have got at the moment is 70 years old, it is not fit for purpose. The staff have to move most of the stock around more than once. Some of the stock is tored in a shed out the back. There are steps and ramps. Yes, the new store will benefit us, but it will also benefit the community.’Comment on the application on the WDBC website, app no. 22215/22/FUL.