MORPETH residents have been warned the town centre could suffer an 'economic collapse' if a new Tesco store in Coopies Lane is built.
Matt Ritson, chairman of the Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade, said while many people may welcome the 20,000 sq ft supermarket, they should consider the effect it will have on businesses and traders in the centre of town.
And he claims the knock-on effect would be felt by the Morpeth public in the form of a major fall in the value of their homes.
Following discussions between members, Mr Ritson said: "The unanimous opinion of the Chamber is that we are quite happy to include major retail developments like this in the town centre, but we are firmly opposed to them being built on the outskirts.
"Whilst some residents will be quite happy to have an out-of-town supermarket, they have to understand the detrimental effect on Morpeth that could well bring about the collapse, economically, of the town centre.
"A retail survey the Chamber and Castle Morpeth Council commissioned a few years ago found that 10m of business would be lost to an out-of-town store such as Tesco or the Sainsbury's proposed at Stobhill and that could be too much to overcome.
"If I was living in a nice house in Morpeth, I would not want to risk the collapse of the town centre which would bring down the value of my home for the sake of a cheaper basket of groceries."
He is also concerned about the timing of the plans, with the 32m redevelopment of the Sanderson Arcade and Back Riggs areas of the town set to open next year, with more food shopping options.
"The redevelopment project in the town centre is addressing the need for better food shopping, as Morrisons is being extended, a larger Marks and Spencer will be built and there is a possibility of a smaller food store in one of the units," he said.
"With Lidl already in place we are just about fully subscribed, although there are sites available in the town centre for another store to come in, but it's vital that there are no distractions when the scheme has finished and is open to the public."
Mr Ritson added that the Tesco plans will be discussed further at the Chamber's next Committee meeting.
n Tesco has proposed to build the store on the disused PD Ports haulage depot in Coopies Lane, which would create about 200 jobs.
The outlet would mainly sell food and the supermarket has been designed as one of the company's new generation of 'green' stores, with extra plans for a wind turbine and a combined heat and power system.