Kelso Chamber of Trade up in arms over Sainsbury’s cafe plan

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SUPERMARKET giant Sainsbury’s has promised that a cafe planned for its new store in Kelso is not intended to compete against similar businesses in the town, after local traders complained about the proposal, writes Mark Entwistle.

Sainsbury’s battled rival Tesco for three years to win the right to open a supermarket in Kelso and work to convert the old Keltek factory site at Pinnaclehill is now well under way with the aim being that the new store be open by the summer.

There was a vociferous local campaign backing the Sainsbury’s bid over the Tesco scheme, with many in the town, including local traders, believing that a Sainsbury’s store would attract more people into the town generally.

Sainsbury’s had proposed a small cafe in its originally scheme for the Keltek site but later ditched it when the plans for the size of the development were reviewed.

However, local traders are now up in arms after Sainsbury’s recently lodged an application with Scottish Borders Council seeking planning consent for a cafe at mezzanine level.

According to the town’s Chamber of Trade, a number of its members feel that the whole reason for the struggle to get a Sainsbury’s store in Kelso was to attract people into the town after visiting the supermarket. And in its latest newsletter, the chamber states: “By building a cafe, this will be lost as customers will have a full shopping experience at Sainsbury’s and will not need to come to the centre of Kelso.”

At its last meeting, members agreed that the Chamber of Trade should formally object to the cafe application.

But this week, a spokesperson for Sainsbury’s, Sarah Wright, tried to give assurances that it was not the company’s intention to compete against local town centre cafes and restaurants with its cafe proposal.

“There was a cafe in the original scheme for the Kelso store but this was dropped when the size of the proposed store was changed,” she told TheSouthern this week.

“But a proposal for a very small cafe has been put forward after feedback from various public meetings and consultations. Because of the situation with public transport, where there will only be an hourly service to the store, it was felt that there needed to be somewhere for people like the more elderly or mothers with young children to sit and wait – the more vulnerable in society.

“Where would they go to wait for a bus if there was nothing like this? I don’t think anyone could argue against that being a useful addition to the store. However, in saying that, the cafe is planned to be small precisely so that it is not in competition with similar businesses in the town.

“We are liaising with local traders to see if we can get them to be less worried about this. That is certainly something Sainsbury’s would not want to cause.

“People should not be worried about it. Hopefully, someone representing Sainsbury’s will be able to attend the next meeting of the local traders group.”

Ms Wright added that the public feedback the company had received about its new store was the lack of enough bus services from the Springwood retirement village on the outskirts of Kelso up to the new supermarket.

“So we are currently looking at arranging a shuttle bus service to do that and are liasing over this at the moment,” she said.