Surprise at 'u-turn' on Asda bid

By Ian Dipple Tuesday 05 August 2014 Updated: 06/08 14:20

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Buy photos » An artist impression of what Asda could look like if plans are approved. (s)

BOSSES at supermarket giant Asda say they have been left bemused after planners changed their recommendation for their bid for a new store in Redditch.

Planners had originally recommended the application to create a new 50,000 sq ft store out of the existing B&Q warehouse on Jinnah Road in Smallwood be approved. They argued although it breached national planning guidelines which aim to protect the town centre, additional information provided by Asda demonstrated there was not a viable site with the company ruling out locations on Edward Street, Church Road and the Kingfisher Shopping Centre's proposal to demolish Car Park 4 and build a new store there off the ringway.

However Asda has now been informed the recommendation has now been changed ahead of Wednesday's planning committee meeting (August 6) to a refusal. More information around the reasons why the recommendation was changed is expected to be released at the meeting.

A spokeswoman for Redditch Borough Council said: "The case was reviewed in light of some recent information and the subsequent recommendation was put forward."

Asda say their proposal would create up to 400 new jobs, represent a multi-million pound investment in the town and has public support. But critics argue it will damage the future of the town centre by creating more competition on its doorstep and effectively end any hope of attracting a supermarket back into the town centre.

Philip Bartram, Asda senior property communications manager, said: "We are shocked and very disappointed by the sudden U-turn from council officers. To change the recommendation to members at such a late stage is almost unprecedented and we are frankly bemused. Both B&Q and Asda have worked hard together to bring these plans to fruition. We’ve had tremendous support from the local community - over 95 per cent of people voicing an opinion have supported the plans – and we firmly believe that the proposal has the potential to deliver major long-term benefits to the Redditch area.

"We can only hope that the borough council decision on Wednesday takes into account all of the potential benefits, and also reflects the vast majority of public opinion. We could then look forward to delivering an exciting new major development for Redditch."

If planning is granted the new store should be ready by early 2016.

But bosses at Capital & Regional, which joint own the Kingfisher Shopping Centre, have backed the new recommendation by planners.

Mark Bourgeois, executive director for Capital & Regional, said: "Given our investment, it is encouraging Redditch Borough Council officers have recommended planning committee members to refuse Asda’s application for an out-of-town food store. Should permission be granted, it would damage the future of our town centre and materially undermine the work we have carried out to date. It would nullify the chances of an in-town supermarket – at the moment the town can only accommodate one more, and would pull people away from the heart of the community. In doing so it would compete with in-town retailers causing job losses from the centre.

"We support Redditch Borough Council which has recognised government policy, which prioritises town centre development and support our own proposals for an in-town food store."

He added their proposal for a town centre supermarket was backed by 91 per cent of more than 500 people questioned about the plan.

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