WAITROSE’S proposed store in Bilton received strong support when the plans were put on show to the public.
Over 70 per cent of the 600 people who turned out to two exhibitions on Friday and Saturday said they would like to see the shop open on the old Bilton Social Club on Main Street.
The 31,700 sq ft store would also have parking for around 175 cars and create up to 150 jobs.
Among the projects supporters was Lynn Headland, of Cawston, who said she was very excited about it.
“I think it would be great for Bilton. I think it would send us more upmarket.
“I have a hairdressing salon here and most of our clients are very excited. It’s what we probably need.
“Anything to make that horrible old site look better would be fantastic, and Waitrose certainly would do that.”
Geoff Wane, of Alwyn Road, also saw it as a positive move: “We live locally and we like buying things from Waitrose, so it would be a convenience for us.”
However, not all locals were encouraged at the idea of a Waitrose within a few hundred metres of existing Tesco Express and Co-Op stores, and a short drive away from Lidl and Sainsbury’s.
Jeffrey Foddy, of Marton Lane, believed the town to be saturated.
“I think we’ve got enough already. If Co-Op and Tesco weren’t here I’d say yes, but I think it’s just one step too far. I would sooner see that site developed for housing.”
Ann Smith, a resident of Main Street, told us: “No matter what they do, they will take custom away from our existing shops.”
Marion Day, of Cawston, doubted the need for another supermarket in Rugby.
She said: “I wonder where everyone’s going to shop; if they shop at Waitrose, is that going to be to the detriment of all the other little shops?”
However, a partner in a Main Street small business has given the supermarket the thumbs-up.
Sue Cooper, of Cheese on The Green, said: “We have a business here, and we know that having a Waitrose here will only be good for us.
“I don’t see them as being in direct competition because they can’t offer the personal service.
“We think it’ll bring more people to the village. It’ll be very good in that respect. Many people do go a long way to find their favourite food.”
Her comments struck a chord with the experiences of developers Discovery Properties.
Representative Hugo Hawkins said: “We developed the Waitrose foodstore in Kenilworth.
“We talk to our tenants regularly and all of them have seen improvements since the Waitrose opened, and the footfall in the year after it opened increased by 17 per cent.”
Meanwhile, many residents said they would like to see the company elsewhere in Rugby, and wondered why the supermarket had not looked at the former Gala Bingo site on Evreux Way – or even anchoring the Clock Towers Shopping Centre.
“Waitrose looked at a number of opportunities in the town centre and elsewhere and they’ve turned them all down,” Mr Hawkins said.
“They believe the opportunity is here and that this area is under-provided, particularly as there is considerably large amounts of new housing proposed in this area.
“The Co-Op and Tesco are both relatively small stores and will not provide the full range that Waitrose will provide.
“They want to be close to the people who are going to shop in their store.”
Roland Bohn, also from Discovery Properties, added: “We will now be looking at the issues and concerns raised and aim to address them in our plans before any application is submitted to Rugby Borough Council.”
The plans can still be viewed at waitrosebilton.co.uk where people can register their views.
Just under 600 people attended the public consultation exhibition in Bilton Methodist Church Hall to see details of Waitrose’s proposals and to feedback their views.
An artist’s impression of the proposed store’s entrance.