Scalford Road development was Melton’s first superstore in 1983 and caused huge controversy

An advert in the Melton Times in June 1983 announcing the arrival of the new Co-op superstore EMN-150916-134332001
An advert in the Melton Times in June 1983 announcing the arrival of the new Co-op superstore EMN-150916-134332001
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When the Co-op opened its store in Melton 32 years ago it was the town’s first superstore and was heralded as an exciting ground-breaking development for people who lived here.

Adverts announcing the opening, which took place on Thursday June 23, 1983, proudly boasted that it was Melton’s biggest food store, with a dozen checkouts and extra wide aisles to improve the shopping experience.

It opened to great fanfare with film and television star Terry Scott, who starred in the sit-com ‘Terry and June’ and countless Carry On films, doing the honours.

It was the fourth superstore opened in the county by the Leicestershire Co-operative Society, the others being in Glenfield, Loughborough and Thurmaston.

And an advert in the Melton Times proclaimed: “The Melton supermarket brings great benefits to the town - in addition to providing a new attractive and convenient place to shop, the development will bring 200 new jobs.”

But that is all a distant memory with the news this week that the Co-op has decided to close the store in January due to falling sales, threatening the jobs of the 41 people who now work there.

That the store was even built at all at the Scalford Road site was a huge controversy in Melton back in the early 1980s.

A furore was sparked in 1982 when Melton planners went against a planning officer’s recommendation and their planning policy and allowed a change of use of the ‘out-of-town’ site from warehousing to retail.

Traders were furious that it would draw people away from town centre shops and ruin their businesses.

John Southerington, the then chairman of the chamber of trade, recalled: “It created a precedent in Melton when the Co-op was allowed there.

“Tesco then put in an application for a store on Thorpe Road, which is also out of town of course.

“The council refused it but Tesco won on appeal because there was already a precedent set with the Co-op.”

The Co-op had originally intended to build its superstore on the former Bell Hotel site, which is now the Bell Centre shopping mall, on Nottingham Road.

But those plans were altered when the council gave the go-ahead for retail development at Scalford Road.

The Melton Times then broke the news in our issue of October 29,1982, that the Co-op had bought the Scalford Road site for £850,000 from the council.

The Co-op, which had bought the Bell Hotel in 1978, eventually redeveloped it into the Bell Centre shopping mall which still stands today, as well as building their superstore.

l What are your memories of the Co-op when it first came to Melton in 1983?

Did you work there in the early days and do you have any photos of your time there?

If so, please email Nick Rennie at nick.rennie@jpress.co.uk