Mixed feelings in Fenland on Tesco retrenchment

victory08:26 Friday 9th January 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

DOTTY MCLEOD: A £22 million Tesco store which was due to open in Chatteris last year has been binned by the retail giant. The sprawling store had been earmarked to open its doors to customers two months ago, but has ended up on the scrapheap without serving a single customer. The store is one of 49 planned new-builds shelved by the retailer, including stores planned for Ely and Whittlesey. Martin Curtis is the Conservative county councillor for Whittlesey North. Martin, what did you think about this, this news that there will be no Tesco store now in Whittlesey?

MARTIN CURTIS: From a personal perspective and from a Whittlesey perspective it provides some certainty around our situation, because we’ve been having this spat for a long time between Sainsbury’s and Tesco’s. And from that perspective I’m glad that there’s some clarity. But I’m also really really frustrated, because it’s absolutely clear, if you look at Stephen Barclay our MP’s website , that Tesco have said to him that they don’t believe that two stores will work in Whittlesey. And we made this point all the way through the planning process that the store in Eastrea Road was the right one, the Tesco store down Station Road wasn’t viable. And now they’ve come out and said that’s absolutely right. And that process of getting to where we are now in certainty has cost Fenland District Council money, it’s cost Sainsbury’s money in appeals and legal costs. And more to the point it’s caused a huge amount of anguish in Whittlesey as well. So although I’m really glad they’ve finally said what we always knew was going to be said, it should have come a year earlier.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Of course your situation is slightly different from that in Chatteris, because the store in Whittlesey hadn’t been built. If it’s frustrating for you, imagine the situation down the road.
MARTIN CURTIS: No, and I feel for Chatteris residents, because I know they really want this store as well, and I do feel for them. Fingers crossed. Tesco will be good to their word, and they’ll find somebody else to actually occupy that store. I must admit I had my doubts, because it will take away from the success of the Ely store and the March Tesco store as well. But fingers crossed they will find somebody to occupy that, and make sure Chatteris get the supermarket that they’re calling for.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Martin Curtis there, councillor for Whittlesey North. And we do have this statement from Dave Lewis, who is the Chief Executive Officer at Tesco.

It is with a heavy heart that I am today announcing that we are unable to proceed with 49 planned new store developments across the UK, including our planned stores in Chatteris and Whittlesey. Our performance as a business has fallen significantly short of where we would want it to be and my absolute imperative has to be to protect the future of our business for the circa 300,000 colleagues we employ in communities all over the UK. I know that this news will be a real disappointment to many people in both local communities and we’re extremely grateful for the support we’ve received for our plans. I am very aware of the importance of both of the sites to their local areas and I am determined that we will work closely with Fenland District Council to find the right solution for both local communities.

Statement there from Dave Lewis of Tesco’s.