Businesses have thrown their weight behind a “Save Skipton” campaign in a bid to stop Sainsbury’s from building in the town.
A planning application, including a superstore, hotel, pub and business park, on land between Waltonwrays Cemetery and Sandylands Sports Centre, is expected to go before Craven District Council’s planning committee next month. But following a meeting last week of more than 30 businesses at the town’s Rendezvous Hotel, opposition is mounting, with traders fearing the town will lose its recently revealed status as the best place to live in the country.
A questionnaire, delivered to 260 town centre businesses at the beginning of the year, was completed by 96, of which 74 were opposed to the supermarket, while ten were in favour and 12 were undecided.
Many traders are also asking residents and visitors to sign a petition and a deputation is expected to speak at April’s planning meeting.
Meanwhile, developer Henry Boot has responded to criticism by saying it would have liked the opportunity to attend the meeting.
“Had we been invited to attend this event, we would have stressed the benefits that the whole business park will bring to Skipton,” a spokesman said.
Bed and breakfast owner Mick Courcier said there were “numerous and grave” concerns voiced at Thursday’s meeting.
“Skipton has just been voted the best place to live in the UK. This was based on many factors including the fact that it has a ‘vibrant heart’ with individual shops which still thrive here, the market traders who sell their wares, the fact that everything the residents and visitors alike need is within easy walking distance,” he said. “They do not come here because of our four existing supermarkets and they will not come here to visit a fifth.”
Mr Courcier said it was his belief the development, if allowed, would destroy the town’s special character.
“We would run the very real risk of giving up that uniqueness which is our ‘X-factor’ and becoming just another lifeless town in the UK that was once a thriving centre.”
Chris McGrath, owner of Wonder in Wood, Otley Street, added: “Some of our biggest strengths are our thriving High Street, independent shops and bustling market. As well as serving residents well, these attract visitors from far and wide which make Skipton the vibrant place it is today, the Sainsbury’s superstore plan puts all this at risk and must be stopped.”
But Henry Boot says there is a long, identified need for more business space in Skipton and it has spoken to many businesses and individuals who recognise that the development is vital for the town’s future economic prosperity.
“Without new modern commercial space to attract businesses and to enable existing companies to stay and grow, Skipton risks losing out to other nearby towns,” said the spokesman.
“A foodstore is only one element of the Wyvern Park proposals, but is essential to the scheme’s success. The fact is that due to the exceptional high abnormal costs linked with the delivery of this scheme, it is simply unviable as a pure employment led development and only a foodstore will generate the investment required to enable the business park to come forward.”
The Sainsbury’s would also bring choice and competition and help keep consumer spending in the town, said the spokesman.
The Wyvern Park development - which the developers say will generate more than 1,000 new jobs - has already raised the objections from Skipton Town Council.
The application could be decided as early as April 7 by Craven District Council’s planning committee - although it is still to be confirmed whether it will be on the agenda or not.