Tesco plans for St Albans city centre
SUPERMARKET giant Tesco is understood to be on the verge of exchanging contracts to purchase the empty Woolworths store in St Albans city centre. Tesco, which was not available for comment yesterday, is thought to be interested into converting the buildin
SUPERMARKET giant Tesco is understood to be on the verge of exchanging contracts to purchase the empty Woolworths store in St Albans city centre.
Tesco, which was not available for comment yesterday, is thought to be interested into converting the building into a bigger store than the existing Tesco Metro further along St Peter's Street.
Tesco has already tried to open a new supermarket in St Albans but their application last February to build a superstore on the former Eversheds printworks site at the junction of London Road and Alma Road was unanimously refused by the district council's planning referrals committee in July 2008.
A total of 10 reasons were given for refusal at the time, including the huge scale of the development - which would have seen local listed buildings demolished - the impact of increased traffic on the already busy London Road and the detrimental effect of a giant supermarket on city centre retailers.
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Tesco has yet to lodge an appeal against the decision and Cllr Chris Brazier, the district council's portfolio holder for planning, said it was possible that Tesco could have abandoned their London Road plans in favour of the new Woolworths project.
He said: "I think their purchase of the Woolworths site either means Tesco have changed their mind about the Evershed's site or that they are buying Woolworths as a back up so they can move from their current store to a larger one."
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District councillor for St Peter's ward Cllr Jack Pia said that he welcomed Tesco's latest move with open arms: "It would be brilliant for St Albans if a new Tesco opened in the city centre. At present the city is poorly equipped with supermarkets and, aside from the tiny Tesco Metro, there is nowhere local for those living in my ward to shop."
But he added: "However, I am slightly concerned that it could turn out to be one of Tesco's 'spoiler sites' which they will leave abandoned for a long period of time before starting work on it. That is the only thing that makes me nervous at the moment."
Speaking on behalf of St Albans Stop Tesco Group, Simon Hepburn, who strongly opposed Tesco's London Road proposal last year, said that he had no objection to a new Tesco in the city centre: "It is as good a place as any to have a new supermarket and we have maintained all along that it would be a far more suitable location than London Road."
He added: "The old Woolworths site would be the right place to put a new Tesco, because, among other reasons, it boasts great transport links and Tesco has a long-standing association with the city centre because of the Metro store on St Peter's Street.