Residents complain as new Sainsbury’s set to open on Mill Road

Tonicha Upham 4 February 2015

A new Sainsbury’s Local looks set to open on Mill Road, replacing the existing Mace convenience store. This comes after years of protests from local residents, who fear that a chain supermarket risks "turning Mill Road into a clone town high street", according to the Mill Road Society.

Sainsbury’s has recently submitted an alcohol licensing application to Cambridge City Council for the current Mace premises, which is set to close as its owner, Raj Brahmbhatt, has decided to retire.

Sainsbury’s first tried to enter the area in 2011, entering a bid on the lease of Mickey Flynn’s Pool Hall. Around 4,500 Mill Road area residents protested with the ‘They’re Taking the Mickey’ campaign, arguing that supermarket convenience stores would "threaten and destroy the independent shops that define our community". Yet despite protests, the change of lease was approved in November 2014, allowing the pool hall to change from a leisure building to a retail facility.

Similarly, The Mill Road Society, a local residents association, plans to protest the latest move.

They hope to get the application to sell alcohol denied, saying, "Sainsbury’s offer is contingent on their acquiring an alcohol license". As the area is currently a Cumulative Impact Zone, with a presumption against granting new licenses, the group is optimistic that their campaign will be successful.

They believe that the store is "specifically aimed at a student demographic, a transient population without roots in the community". However, students are also calling for greater diversity in shops, as one undergraduate told The Cambridge Student, that although a new Sainsbury’s would provide more "food options, which we desperately need, a different supermarket would be better, as we already have two Sainsbury’s in Cambridge. I’d prefer a budget option."

Meanwhile, Sainsbury’s says that the new store will create 25 new full and part-time jobs and other local residents have expressed their support for the store as providing a better service than existing options.

Julian Huppert, MP for Cambridge told TCS: "I’m very concerned about another major supermarket chain moving into Mill Road … [It is] a diverse, vibrant shopping area and its success has a great deal to do with the fact that it supports a wide range of independent well-established traders. But if we continue to introduce businesses that don’t operate on a level playing field with these small traders we are in danger of forcing them out of business. That is a real concern because it could change the face of Cambridge and our city would be in danger of becoming a clone of other towns and cities across the country." He added: "I have campaigned to give our independent traders more protection. I want to see the planning laws changed … so that we keep diversity on our High Streets."