Retail experts are being called in to assess whether trade in Beverley would be hit if another superstore is built on the edge of the town.
East Riding Council has agreed to seek expert opinion before deciding whether to sell its multi-million pound site in Grovehill Road, formerly the site of the council depot, for a supermarket development.
Since the 12-acre site was offered for sale by tender earlier this year it has attracted 11 bids from developers, of which 10 were for supermarket-led schemes of varying sizes.
The highest bidder was for a Sainsbury store which would have occupied most of the site.
A report on the bids was outlined to members of the council’s Cabinet, who have agreed to defer a decision on the sale of the land.
They are asking for a detailed assessment of the impact of
the bids - together with the recently approved proposals for the nearby Flemingate site - on the vitality and viability of the town centre before a decision is made.
The council Leader, Councillor Stephen Parnaby, said he personally does not believe that Beverley can sustain another large supermarket at this stage.
He would rather see a mixed use of the site, which was originally earmarked for business, small retail and hotel use.
Councillor Parnaby stressed that the Cabinet is looking at the issue as landowners, not as a planning committee,
He said Sainsbury could look for another site elsewhere in the town if the council refused to sell, which would not benefit the authority or its council tax payers.
He said if there was a planning application, the authority would need evidence to support any decision to resist it.
“If we just said ‘no, we don’t want to sell, we don’t think there is a need for it’, Sainsbury will go and look for another site. Our gut reaction is that we need to sustain that with evidence,” he said.
Coun Parnaby said the planned retail assessment will look at whether the town can sustain another supermarket.
It will also take account of the p
roposed Flemingate scheme, which was recently given the go-ahead by the Government.
The development on the 16-acre Flemingate site is for mixed use, including retail, housing, leisure and educational facilities, a hotel and car parking.
Although the Flemingate site will not include a supermarket, Coun Parnaby said the recent decision on that is another reason for being cautious about development at Grovehill.
“I know that it is not for food, but it is nevertheless another major retail development in the town, and I would question if the timing is right,” he said.
The report by retail experts will be considered by the Cabinet before a decision on the sale of the Grovehill site is made.