Co-op secret bid to turn Wedmore car park into shop
The Store Wars in Cheddar seems to have spilled over into neighbouring Wedmore with a major retail player making a secret bid for land for a store.
Solicitors acting on behalf of The Co-operative have approached Wedmore Parish Council with a view to buy its public car park.
But the fishing expedition was cut short at the council’s meeting on Wednesday of last week.
Councillors put the private request into the public domain and politely but firmly rejected the offer after five minutes’ debate.
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The effect on the village’s current outlets was weighed up, along with any future role the car park will play with the council’s own intention to create affordable housing at Worthington Close.
Councillors felt it was an open-and-shut case anyway as the six-year-old car park, which originally cost £200,000, was subject to conditions preserving it as a public car park.
The Co-operative’s solicitors sent a letter marked private and confidential. But the parish council felt it was a public matter as it was public land and debated the issue amongst themselves before logging it in the meeting’s minutes.
The Co-operative did not say what type of store it had in mind or why it was considering Wedmore.
A spokesperson for The Co-operative Food said: “Like all major retailers we are constantly on the lookout for potential new locations, but we have no plans in Wedmore.”
Wedmore traders were understandably not happy with the retail giant’s interest in the village.
Mark Walker, proprietor of The Paper Shop on Church Street, was pleased the council gave the bid short shrift and hoped they would do it again if need be.
He said: “Wedmore is a thriving community with tremendous village spirit among residents.
“Wedmore traders have had a small hand in keeping the village unique.
“But Sainsbury’s has planning permission. Tesco wants permission and now the Co-operative wants to open in Wedmore.
“This would only be detrimental to Wedmore’s way of life.”
Mr Walker cited the knock-on effect on local suppliers, contractors, accountants, builders, charity sponsorship and so on that shops currently use if a large retailer came to the village.
Lisa Salter, proprietor of Pumpkin Delicatessen and Cafe in the Borough Mall, thinks Wedmore is a target for such operators.
She said: “I would be out of a job. It would ruin the village.
“Customers who live in the village are very good to the likes of myself and Pisces and the butchers. A Co-operative would just ruin us.
“Wedmore is a standalone village and we have so much to offer.
“Not many villages have got two butchers at the moment.”
Dean Downer, proprietor of Pisces fishmonger, also in The Borough Mall, said: “We vehemently fought Sainsbury’s. Read in that what you will.”
Wedmore Green Group, who mounted a campaign against Sainsbury’s bidding to build in neighbouring Cheddar, is expected to consider the news at next week’s meeting.
The nearest The Co-operative Food shop to Wedmore is four miles away in Axbridge, followed by Winscombe (six miles), Highbridge (six-and-a-half miles) and a large store on Wells High Street (seven miles).
The new Sainsbury’s, once built at Steart Farm on Lower New Road, in Cheddar, will be three-and-a-half miles from Wedmore.
The car park was at the centre of debate 20 months ago when the possibility of siting Axbridge surgery on land by the site was considered.
Would you welcome or oppose a Co-operative in Wedmore?
Write to firstname.lastname@example.org or The Editor, Cheddar Valley Gazette, Southover, Wells, BA5 1UH.