Leading independent retailer Jonathan James has put plans for a £1.4m extension to his Soham Budgens store on ice while East Cambridgeshire Council decides whether to give the green light to an out-of-town supermarket.

The 5,000 sq ft extension would have created two community meeting rooms, enlarged the police centre and created a gallery area for local arts and crafts. James had also planned to install 48 cycle racks and two charging points for electric cars.

Work was due to begin in July, but James said he had no choice but to wait and see whether the council granted Harrier Developments permission to build a 41,000 sq ft out-of-town supermarket less than a mile away.

“The whole idea was to create a community hub, not a store, to give people more than one reason to come to the high street. It was devastating to find out about the planning application,” he said.

The out-of-town scheme “flew in the face” of the NPPF and risked increasing the vacancy rate in Soham town centre, which is currently under 3% compared with a national average of 14.6%, he added.