Sunday, 20 August 2017

Out-of-town supermarket will ‘finish’ village shops

SHOPS in Benson could be forced to closed by a new out-of-town supermarket, say traders.

SHOPS in Benson could be forced to closed by a new out-of-town supermarket, say traders.

The 30,000 sq ft Morrisons Market Street store, which will include a café and petrol station, is to be built on the Hithercroft industrial estate, about five miles from the village, and open in 2015.

Planning permission was granted by South Oxfordshire District Council last month.

The store will have 310 parking spaces and will be served by three bus routes, including the 139 route, which passes through Benson.

Shopkeepers in the village claim the store, whose goods range will include non-food items, will lure away their customers.

James Grudonner, who has owned Chiltern produce and florists in High Street for 23 years, said: “I think it is going to affect trade and it will probably finish off most of Benson.

“All retail is very, very fragile at the moment. It has been tough and we have just about survived this recession so it would be a shame to close.

“The shops in Benson are the heart of the village and part of the community — without that it will become a dormitory village.”

Mike Mazurek, owner of Benson Wines, also in High Street said he expected to lose custom as supermarkets traditionally sold alcohol more cheaply.

“You just have to accept that is the way it is going to be,” he said. “If it hurts my trade that badly then I shall think about whether I keep the place open.”

Mr Mazurek, who has run the former Threshers shop as an independent for the past three-and-a-half years, said: “People come here because we are different. A lot of the stuff we stock you would not get anywhere else.

“Hopefully, a lot of people won’t bother to drive all that way and would rather stay local.”

A spokeswoman for the Co-op, also in High Street, said: “The Co-operative is a community retailer which has served Benson and surrounding areas for many years.

“We have a loyal customer base and many of our shoppers are also Co-operative members. They like our ethical trading policies and our share of profits scheme.

“Our store offers excellent customer service and we look forward to continuing to serve the local community by providing a choice of quality products and price promotions.”

Parish councillors are also concerned about Morrisons’ arrival. Chairman Jon Fowler said the store would “inevitably” harm the village shops.

“In the current difficut economic times the Benson shops are on a knife edge and this new store is not going to help the situation,” he said.

“For residents of Benson and surrounding villages the message is clear — support your local shops or expect to see them close.”

Councillor Patricia Bayliss said: “Morrisons is going to be right on the edge of town. People are going to go there and not go anywhere else.”

However, Chris Hatch, manager of Benson Butchers, said he was looking forward to Morrisons’ arrival.

“I always think their products are pretty good and I don’t think it will have too much of an impact,” he said. “Our customers come to us because they know they are going to get good quality and good service.

“If people want to go to the supermarket they will go to the supermarket and I would rather their money was kept local than have people going to Didcot.”

Janet Sharp, owner of Revial, agreed that many residents would continue to shop locally.

“People will still use the local food stores for bits and pieces and then go to Morrisons for a big shop,” she said. “I don’t think it will make much difference to Benson.”

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