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Tesco supermarket talks in Helmsley put on hold
TALKS to bring a Tesco store to Helmsley Town Hall have been put on hold after calls were made for an independent consultation to take place.
About 250 people, many of whom are against the proposals, attended a town council meeting on Monday night and put questions to the chairman of the town hall’s management committee, John Buffoni.
Mr Buffoni said that he was happy to answer questions from concerned residents, despite feeling as if he were “on trial” at a meeting the previous week organised by the town’s residents.
“People seem to be ignoring what is best for the town hall’s future. They keep talking about “save our town hall”, but the town hall does not need saving,” he said. “It is very well organised and well run, but we need to find another income. We will fix it, we have to. That’s more on the agenda than Tesco is.”
Tesco is yet to submit a planning application, but has made an offer to replace the library, which is currently in the town hall. The library, said to be looking for another venue due to council cuts, would be replaced with a Tesco Express store if the plans are approved.
But residents – and business owners in particular – are worried that the arrival of a supermarket would damage the town’s independent businesses.
Helmsley resident Helen Robinson, who organised the public meeting last week and welcomed a move for independent consultation, said she feels Tesco would see an end to Helmsley as it is now.
“Many people have come forward with ideas and offers of assistance,” she said. “The tremendous response from residents at the meeting and in writing revealed the strength of feeling and anger that they were not being given a voice when profound decisions affecting our town were being considered. I do hope the trust engages with people instead of pursuing an exceptionally unpopular course which would undoubtedly harm the Helmsley we all love.”
The full independent consultation, which will be run in conjunction with Community Matters, will begin in January and Mr Buffoni says it will address the issues raised so far.
The news of the consultation puts a temporary block on Tesco’s plans, while issues are resolved and Mr Buffoni is hoping that it will eliminate some of the animosity between residents and business owners towards the town hall trust.
He said: “We have put our negotiations with Tesco on hold at the moment until we establish exactly what the community feels about having Tesco and not just Helmsley traders and their allies either, it is about the whole community of Helmsley.
“These are real issues and have got to be dealt with properly. Just because someone has a very loud voice it does not make them right.”
However, not all residents are against Tesco coming to the town. Janet Snowdon, who has lived in Helmsley for 74 years, said: “We need to accept change. We can’t live in a museum, but we have got to move forward and if this entails having to have Tesco so we can keep our town hall then so be it.”
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