Major discussions need to take place with Tesco after the company pulled the plug on a planned store in Amble, it has been claimed, including the future of the site and assurances over the existing shop in the town.
Last week, the supermarket giant revealed that it would no longer be building a premises in Amble, due to financial pressures. It was one of 49 across the country to be chopped by the company.
The announcement brought an end to a long-running saga in the town, after the firm continually stalled progress at the site, despite pledging its commitment to the cause.
In the wake of Thursday’s news, community leaders have said that they are disappointed by Tesco’s decision to pull out, but are not surprised.
However, they stress that key questions now need to be answered, notably what will happen to the recently-cleared plot, located north of Queen Street and adjacent to the Braid.
They also want assurances that the supermarket giant is still committed to the existing store on Queen Street and the axe will not be wielded on staff there.
Speaking at Amble Town Council less than 12 hours after Tesco’s announcement, Coun Robert Arckless said: “We need to reflect on the best way forward. I have asked Tesco for confirmation of its continuing commitment to the existing Tesco Amble store, because I am sure this has been difficult for the staff there.
“What happens to the land where their planned store was going to go is also important. I don’t think it is as simple as them walking away and that is the end of it.
“My understanding is that they own the site and I hope they don’t sit on it. There will need to be considerable thought about the way forward.”
He added that it was important to support existing businesses in the town and hopes the £2.5million Harbour Village development will be a boost to traders.
However, Coun Jeff Watson said that it could prove difficult to force the situation with Tesco.
He said: “Tesco will do what it wants to do. This is a bigger problem than just Amble. However, that is not to say that we shouldn’t liaise with them.”
The future of the site has also been a talking point for MP Sir Alan Beith, who has vowed to do what he can to progress the matter.
He said: “I am writing to the chief executive of Tesco to find out what is now planned for the former development site.
“Whatever happens next is going to be really crucial to the development of Amble and I want to make sure the town is not forgotten.”
He is working with his would-be successor, Julie Pörksen, to identify possible business opportunities and to showcase Amble.
The pair recently visited the town’s Fourway 2 building to find out more about Amble Development Trust’s free drop-in service to help people with job searches, writing, updating CVs and IT skills.
Final permission for Tesco’s eco-store came in 2011. Outline permission had already been given. The company said it would create 150 full and part-time jobs.
The store was to be built in 2012, but its future was thrown into doubt that year when it was placed under review. Tesco said it would start work in spring 2013. At the start of 2013, Tesco made an 11th-hour decision to amend the scheme. These revised plans, originally promised for consultation in autumn 2013, never came to fruition.
Tesco cleared the site last year, removing derelict buildings.