A new Sainsbury’s store would lead to a “greatly reduced” selection of shops in Skipton town centre, a planning expert has claimed.

The retail expert, hired by Craven District Council to look at a plan to build the superstore on land between Waltonwrays Cemetery and Sandylands Sports Centre, also criticised evidence in support of the scheme as “flawed in some key areas”.

Martin Tonks of MT Town Planning points out that the addition of new stores at Albion Place (9 High Street) and Keelham Farm Shop had not been taken into consideration.

But the developers behind the Wyvern Park retail and industrial development scheme rejected the findings, and added that the superstore was needed to pay for the rest of the development which includes new business units.

Mr Tonks’ report reads: “There will be a cumulative impact on Skipton town centre arising from these developments that I consider is likely to be significantly adverse with greatly reduced diversity and consumer choice within the town centre. The proposal should not therefore be supported by the council.”

Brian Verity, of Skipton Properties, who has called on the town to oppose the application because of his feared negative impact on the town centre, said the review confirmed his worst fears.

“This is the wrong development in the wrong place. I previously objected to the application because I fear it will suck the life out of our High Street, and now the council’s own professional consultant agrees. Thank heavens the council has done the right thing in giving the Sainsbury’s application the close scrutiny it needs. Hopefully, they will now throw it out once and for all.”

Skipton Town Council has also raised concerns about the development and about some aspects of the developers retail assessment report.

A spokesman for Henry Boot said its retail specialists were reviewing the council’s retail assessment and would be responding in detail to the council.

He added: “However, we do not accept that our development will have a significantly adverse impact on the town centre.

“We are confident that the conclusions in our own retail assessment are correct and the criticisms raised made by Mr Tonks are not supported by the evidence.

“By providing an improved retail offer for Skipton we can help to retain more consumer spending in the town.

“Indeed our assessment shows that almost 30 per cent of expenditure on food and other convenience items is currently being spent outside the area.

“It is important to remember that the foodstore will help to fund the necessary infrastructure required for the business park, and it is only part of the Wyvern Park proposals.

“Skipton desperately needs new commercial space to allow existing businesses to stay and grow and to attract new companies to the town. If the planning application is approved, once complete Wyvern Park will deliver around 1,100 new local jobs.”