THE battle of the supermarkets began in earnest this week with bosses from Great Harwood’s Co-op claiming they would be forced to close within a year if a Tesco superstore was allowed to open in the town.
At the start of a four-day planning inquiry into whether Tesco should be allowed to build a store in Queen Street, the Co-op claimed it would have "catastrophic consequences" for existing businesses.
Roger Lancaster, representing the Co-op, said: "We have operated a very good store in the area since 2001 and earlier this year we obtained planning permission to extend it by 900 square metres.
"If this Tesco store opens, it will simply be a one-stop shop forcing other businesses in the town, including ours, to close."
The inquiry, which was opened on Tuesday by chartered town planner Phillip Ware, was called by the North West Government Office despite having been given the green light by Hyndburn Council’s Planning Committee.
The application for the controversial superstore includes 306 car parking spaces, a service yard with access and landscaping on the current site of rubber manufacturers Metflex.
The firm would be relocated without job losses to Alan Ramsbottom Way.
Tesco representatives opened the inquiry by explaining that their aim was to improve the lifestyle of Great Harwood residents by providing them with more choice.
Patrick Clarkson said: "The area’s current stores do not provide enough choice to prevent shoppers spending money in other town centres. For the first time Great Harwood is being offered a superstore that can service all of its needs.
"It has been proved that the majority of people travel to superstores to do their weekly shop and the nearest stores to Great Harwood are in Accrington and Clitheroe."
Tesco chiefs also explained how they would create 150 jobs and improve pedestrian footways and lighting between Queen Street and the town centre, as well as upgrading public transport and bus stop facilities.
But the Co-op’s Mr Lancaster said: "Tesco’s proposed new store in Eagle Street, Accrington, must also be brought into the equation.
"Tesco aims to turn over £20M a year from the store in Great Harwood and £31M from Eagle Street despite the catchment areas overlapping. Therefore it is absolutely absurd to think that this store will only have a minor impact on the businesses already established."
Matthew Copeland, on behalf of Hyndburn Council, said: "The existing businesses in the area primarily offer a top-up shopping role.
"But by upgrading the bus stops and pedestrian footpaths, shoppers will be encouraged to venture into the town centre more regularly."
Maria Whitehead, from family-run grocer Whiteheads, Great Harwood ward councillor David Mason and Councillor Nick Collingridge were all due to present their views on the application yesterday morning.