Morrisons unveils plans for store in Tonbridge
By Tonbridge Courier | Monday, September 03, 2012, 12:00
MORRISONS wants to open a supermarket in Tonbridge, the Courier can reveal.
The former Colas site in Vale Rise in Tonbridge
Hot on the heels of reopening its Tunbridge Wells store, the retail giant has said it plans to build on the former Colas Roads site in Vale Rise, next to the Royal Mail depot.
The new store, which would include a butcher's, fishmonger's and bakery, would create around 300 jobs in the town.
The company is now on the brink of lodging a planning application for the site, which it bought for £4 million in December 2011.
The four-acre plot – the size of two football pitches – has been vacant since 1998. It previously housed a coal distillery, although decontamination works have since taken place.
Morrisons' development executive David Bevan said: "Following the success of our reopened store in Tunbridge Wells, we are pleased to confirm we are looking to bring our famous fresh food to Tonbridge.
"We are drawing up our detailed plans and look forward to working with the local community and Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council to find the best way to deliver Morrisons' value, freshness and choice as well as new jobs and training opportunities to Tonbridge."
He added it was too early to go into detail on size or numbers of car parking spaces.
This week council leader Nicolas Heslop welcomed the news.
He said: "It's an acknowledgment that there is commercial interest in Tonbridge. It's a good economic sign for the town.
"We have to carefully consider the application in respect of the vitality and viability of the High Street but the fact that people are looking at Tonbridge is good and should be welcomed in general."
However, some High Street traders expressed concern that shoppers would be lost to the out-of-town store.
Susan Adams, leader of Tonbridge Business Alliance, vehemently opposed the plans. She said: "Any retailer in the industrial estate is bad news for the town centre. It wouldn't help the High Street at all."
Fran Long, from pedestrianisation campaign group PATHS, agreed, adding: "It would take trade away from the High Street and Sainsbury's and Waitrose. It's bad for all the retailers.
"On the whole we have enough supermarkets in Tonbridge itself, convenient places for popping in when people are in the town.
"If they were going to catch people from outside Tonbridge, they're going to offer free parking.
"People won't go into the High Street if they have to pay to park in the town."