EXCLUSIVE: Tesco ‘mothball’ £22 million Chatteris store just weeks before it was due to open with prospect of 250 jobs
PUBLISHED: 00:04 21 September 2014 | UPDATED: 00:04 21 September 2014
Tesco’s £22 million 47,000 square feet Chatteris store – due to open in November with the prospect of 250 jobs- is to be mothballed and temporarily boarded up.
The company dropped the bombshell this weekend – just weeks after it appointed a new chief executive Dave Lewis to stem falling profits.
Bryn Woodward, Tesco corporate affairs manager, said: “After careful consideration we have decided to delay the opening of our new store in town.”
The company’s decision was immediately denounced by Fenland councillor and former Chatteris mayor Florrie Newell.
She was among the first to learn the news after receiving a letter from Mr Woodward.
“I’m absolutely furious,” she said. “For some reason I was the first to be notified. I checked with the Chatteris Town Council clerk and she had not been told and Fenland District Council knew nothing about it either.
“They’ve moved the river, put the underpass in and put in that disgusting roundabout which causes major hold ups because it is not suitable for heavy goods vehicles.”
Cllr Newell added: “We’ve had no end of complaints about it. “There was a 40 minute hold up there when a lorry got stuck.
“Now, they are just going to board up the site and leave it. What about the underpass? That could attract vandals. And there was the promise of all those jobs, which was a lot of lies.”
Tesco’s new boss has been handed a ‘war chest’ by the board of directors of a rumoured £700million to restore the company’s fortunes.
But clearly, as was explained by Mr Woodward that does not include opening, for now at least, a store in Chatteris.
Instead the store will lie empty after deciding it was “slowing down” its build programme.
As part of the development, a river bed has been moved, an underpass built and a roundabout installed which has sparked numerous complaints.
Mr Woodward told Mrs Newell that “after careful consideration we have decided to delay the opening of our new store in town.
“As we announced earlier this year we are slowing down our store opening programme.
“We recognise that some people will be disappointed with this decision and we are very grateful for the support we’ve received in the past for our plans.
“This means that when the developer completes the shell of the building we will retain the current hoardings protecting the site.
“We know how important this site is to the local community and we will make sure the site remains secure and tidy and will respond quickly to any concerns from our neighbours.”
Last year private equity group, Osprey Income and Growth 3 LP, said it had completed the “forward funding acquisition” of the superstore at Chatteris. It had been pre-let to Tesco on an unbroken 25-year lease, with rental uplifts index-linked to RPI.
The planning consent for the site has been undertaken by Harrier Developments, one of the companies owned by Manea based developer Richard Sears. Harrier also won consent for a Tesco store in Station Road, Whittlesey, but work has not started on that scene. Harrier tried to switch consent for another site, in Eastrea Road, but planners backed a rival scheme, on behalf of Sainsbury’s, put forward by businessman Bruce Smith of March. Ironically the Sainsbury’s store, delayed after unsuccessful legal challenges by Mr Sears, is still awaiting a start date.
Earlier this month Liz Dent of ICIS Consulting of Manea, who describes herself as the “developer” of the Chatteris site, responded to readers’ concerns about the roundabout.
“As I’m sure you appreciate the highway works have been implemented strictly in accordance with a design approved, heavily vetted and safety audited by the county council.
“The new roundabout arms are designed to slow traffic down when entering the roundabout whilst also providing fast exits in order to maximise the traffic flows. Kerb re-alignment works are currently been undertaken on the northern exit flare of the site roundabout to provide a wider exit.”
She added: “We anticipate that all traffic management will be removed over the next
few weeks as works come to an end.
“As we move closer to completing the development, hoarding boards have been installed to secure the store during Tesco¹s fit out works.”