IN March planners at Malvern Hills District Council will determine an application by retail giant Tesco for the third time.

The company has persisted after two earlier plans for Tenbury’s former cattle market site were rejected. Local pressure group Tenbury Futures opposes the Tesco plan and is campaigning for a mixture of community uses for the site instead, including a museum and tourist information centre.

Included in Tenbury Futures’ vision is the use of the derelict infirmary building which would be demolished in the Tesco plan. Tenbury Town Council remains undecided on the supermarket proposal but has given the thumbs-up for the demolition of the infirmary.

Here the group answers some key questions posed by the Advertiser.

1. Can you briefly outline for our readers your vision for the former cattle market site.

We ran a community questionnaire in March 2011 and over 300 local and regional people fed back their preferences and ideas for the town's cattle market site.

In it people could indicate their preferences for its redevelopment – including saying whether they'd prefer a large supermarket there. Over 200 stated very clearly they wished the site to benefit the town with both sensitive and sustainable development that broadly benefited the community. There was a very clear rejection however, of the idea of of using the whole site for just one large supermarket On the back of this we researched and developed an outline set of plans that would best encompass these findings – which resulted in our PLAN B document that we published and distributed in July 2011.

This document provides proactive suggestions in relation to the site that could enhance community facilities, tourism draw, local jobs, parking and high street vitality – to name but some areas. Shortly after publishing, PLAN B received positive initial support from regional and national funding organisations – notably the Big Lottery Fund which then featured us in their 'The Local' - a magazine about proactive communities.

2. How will you convince the owner of the site to work with you rather than Tesco or another major retail outlet? This is a tough one. If Tesco's latest application is turned down again then we'd like to start to talk to a range of parties who could come together to look at sensitive alternate development of the site.

There has been interest in the site from other developers while Tesco's latest application is being considered by Malvern Hills.

We'd hope that we could help facilitate a blended re-development of the site that met with support from both the owner, funding organisations and potentially other developers who might consider a much more blended use of the site.

We're especially interested in re-utilising the town's historic old infirmary building which remains in good condition and sits in the town's conservation area.

3. How will you realise your vision financially and are you planning to buy the land?

We are primarily looking to work with the current owners and interested parties.

We would think it unlikely that we would be able to take on and fund the whole project on our own account.

4. What do you fear will happen to Tenbury if the Tesco plan goes ahead?

Our fears are multiple really. In particular we fear it would heighten the high street slowdown in an already challenging financial climate.

It would also reduce employment, as large supermarkets have a far lower employment density than small shops.

- Exacerbating high street slow-down and lessening footfall: Most of us have seen the way that large supermarkets have affected other market towns such as Llandrindod Wells – in which the shopkeepers are now wondering why none of their number objected to the Tesco development there that has clearly contributed to their high street slow-down.

One trader there told our group: "In the first three months it [Tesco] has devastated the local high street to the tune of a 35 per cent to 64 per cent downturn... It is actively targeting the local Boots store (35 per cent to 40 per cent down) and the local Co-op (65 per cent down). Most other retail businesses are experiencing between 15 per cent and 30 per cent decline... some four months after Tesco opening.

“The biggest problem has been the reduction in footfall, people are using Tesco as a one-stop shop and not walking or even driving into the old town centre..."

Tesco itself says over 60 per cent of its shoppers will not go off into adjacent high streets. Instead, it's more common to do a 'one stop shop' and get all shopping in one go. Once this shopping is in the car you're unlikely to leave it and go off down the high street. To further illustrate this you only need to do some basic research into adjacent high streets and you'll find numerous references to businesses who simply can't compete with Tesco's corporate buying-power.

- Little or no impact on unemployment numbers: It's unlikely that such a large Tesco would affect the long-term unemployment numbers in the town either. High street shop jobs in other towns with similar new supermarkets have commonly been lost to a greater extent than any gains made. One newspaper report in 2010 reported on a Barnsley Council survey looking into six towns that had new Tesco stores: “The opening of supermarkets did not boost the labour market of any of the six towns sampled in terms of claimant count unemployment - despite hundreds of jobs being claimed to be created.”

– Traffic Congestion: The area around the old Teme Bridge already suffers from traffic congestion at specific times of the day. Additionally, most locals have witnessed large HGV's trying to pick their way across its unique bend while traffic backs-up. Despite recent ongoing works to strengthen the bridge it's simply not an effective traffic solution that will serve the town well in any situation where the traffic is likely to increase. Instead, we're supporting the idea of a second (relief) bridge nearby downstream which could utilise the Cattle Market and bring people into the town there.

For retailers and businesses on that site it could prove a real benefit while relieving and helping future-proof traffic-flow to the town. Such a scheme could be looked into with contributions from the developer[s] via planing regulations as well as a pooling of both Shropshire and Worcestershire County Council's monies in this area. Without such a scheme, any development on the cattle market site will probably exacerbate existing congestion causing.

5. What do you say to those people living in Tenbury who have voiced their desire for a supermarket so they don’t have to drive to Leominster or Ludlow?

Locals seem to shop using multiple methods now with many combining a supermarket shop nearby with additional goods and foods from the town's high street.

Additionally, some drive the 15 mins to Tesco or Aldi etc in Ludlow, some choose to drive over to Morrisons, Aldi etc in Leominster, some use Lidl at Stourport, others make use of the cheap online deliveries from Tesco etc.

In addition, it's worth noting that Tenbury already has three supermarkets already with Bowketts/Nisa, Spar and a Co-op within walkable distance of many in the town and Burford.

So in essence we're well served anyway and many use existing supermarket deliveries. Add to this that many work in outlying towns to Tenbury and who shop while there anyway and it’s clearly not all that make special journeys out of Tenbury just to shop.

6. What do you say to those who feel they can’t afford to shop entirely from independent retailers – how can Tenbury deliver an affordable weekly shop for them?

We would highlight again that there are shops locally who cater for a range of budgets, in addition, today's shoppers can (and very often do) make use of online shopping options and deliveries that are available to the town and surrounding area.

7. Are you in contact with anti-Tesco campaigns in other parts of the county and do you see yourselves as part of a nationwide movement?

Yes, we're in contact with a number of other regional groups who oppose similar supermarket large developments.

We're not sure whether you could say there's a national movement as such but the campaigning website estimates that there are over 400 similar anti supermarket campaigns now active in the UK – mainly relating to Tesco developments.

It's clear that many thousands of people nationwide are more and more concerned at the power large supermarket chains wield and the negative effects their unchecked growth has on our high streets.

8. Is there any way you would be prepared to work with Tesco or another major developer on an outlet which you would find more acceptable?

We've already been approached by other developers in relation to the cattle market site. Our perspective has been the same with each in that we'd meet with and listen to their plans and then we'd put them to a vote of the Tenbury Futures mailing list members.

If the majority were in support of the ideas then we'd ask for further discussions to see if we could lend our support. The present Tesco application for the site just aims to build a very large supermarket.

Broadly if there are other developers whose plans tally more with the findings of our community questionnaire then we would be keen to look to see if we could lend our support.

9. Why can’t Tesco work for Tenbury in the way it has for Ludlow?

Has it worked in Ludlow and if so then by what measure? The reason it is now where it is on Corve St is that there was a campaign by locals there too against it which lasted for many years. They too feared negative impacts on their high street shops and today's location was very much regarded as the lesser of a couple of evils.

It's a false argument though – the idea of in town or out of town – to us they're both bad for the high street. It's a little like asking "what would you prefer to be eaten by – a lion or a crocodile?"

There are some who might suggest that Ludlow's Tesco has helped the town thrive but in reality the two towns are very, very different with Ludlow having a vastly different demographic population to Tenbury (Ludlow’s main housing estate alone has more people than the whole population of Tenbury).

Additionally Ludlow thrives due to clever marketing as a rural ‘foodie’ capital which brings in visitors, tourism and associated monies. Ludlow also has its cattle market which additionally brings in people, money and passing trade.In short they're very different entities. To compound that there is evidence that trade is polarising towards the Tesco end of Ludlow now that there is a clutch of supermarkets there.