March 8 2014 Latest news:
Story by: JOHN ELWORTHY
Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Tesco is in a race against time to open a multi million pound 60,000 sq ft superstore in Wisbech on February 13 – and has made an urgent bid to Fenland Council to help them achieve it.
The company has warned that unless they open on that date their investment strategy for the year could be threatened but more importantly retailers lined up to take units in their old store at Sandown Road could walk away from their commitments.
Work is well ahead on the Cromwell Road site (formerly Wisbech Greyhound stadium) and completion of the overall scheme could bring up to 500 jobs, with Tesco alone providing half of that number. It will also provide up to £600,000 in community benefits.
Tesco’s agent, Contour Planning, has asked the council to amend its original application to allow a six screen cinema and restaurant complex to open two months later and not in advance as agreed.
Justin Mills, a director of Contour, said the re phasing of the scheme reflects the “significant pressure – including legal obligations” which Tesco is under to open its new food store as quickly as possible.
He said: “Tesco’s funding for developing the new store- and adjoining uses - is fixed to its financial year 2013/14, which expires on February 28. Consequently for Tesco to be able to recover its substantial financial investment the company needs to immediately commence trading. On this basis the store opening has been fixed, with Tesco and its contractors working to an opening date of February 13.”
Mr Mills explained that Tesco’s legal obligations relate to contracts signed by third party outlets that are committed to taking units in the retail park development taking place on the site of the existing Tesco store at Sandown Road.
“If the food store’s practical completion date is missed then the retailers signed up for the retail park – which includes a range of high quality retailers who will help retain trade in Wisbech, preventing leakage to other centres such as Kings Lynn and Peterborough, will be able to talk away form their previous commitment to taking units at Sandown Road,” said Mr Mills.
“It is therefore in both Tesco’s and the council’s interest to ensure that the contracts with the committed retailers are complied with, ensuring that the operators come to Wisbech.”
Mr Mills said: “Tesco is financially and legally committed to opening the store in February and is looking for the council’s support to achieve this timescale.”
Planners are now looking at their request which will mean the Light Cinema will open two months later, in April.
Mr Mills explained that the cinema’s opening needs would coincide with a peak holiday season (Easter) and thereby ensure that the greatest number of potential cinema goers is available at the time of its opening.
He said if the cinema opened before the food store then its trade would be “detrimentally affected by unusual shopping patterns associated with the food store’s first few weeks of trading”.
Mr Mills was emphatic that the revision would not affect the cinema’s opening or their commitment to Wisbech which had been extensively advertised as being part of their financial planning for the current year.
There are two separate sites for re-development: the former stadium in Cromwell Road will house a Tesco Extra together with a multiplex cinema and restaurants.
Once work is complete Tesco will demolish its existing store and replace it with a new retail park.
Fenland Council will receive up to £600,000 in section 106 (community benefit) payments from Tesco.
It includes £40,000 for a new traffic signal system along Cromwell Road, £100,000 to create a master plan for the town’s growth, and £90,000 towards funding schemes resulting from the master plan.
Wisbech Town Council will receive £50,000 for tidal clocks, bus shelters, cycle ways and touch screen information points.
And there will be a two phase payment of £350,000 to provide community transport to the new Cromwell Road store.