SAINSBURY’S has broken its silence over plans for a new town superstore, confirming it is in the final stages of acquiring a new site.
The supermarket giant also revealed it will undertake a “full public consultation” before submitting any application for planning.
And in a boost to Southport town centre trade Sainsbury’s also insists it has no plans to close its Lord Street store.
Last month the Advertiser reported Sainsbury’s had drafted proposals for a 60,000 sq foot superstore at Meols Cop Retail Park.
The plans, leaked to the Advertiser, suggested Sainsbury’s planned to knock down buildings on the site currently occupied by Homebase in order to create the new supermarket.
A car park with 253 designated parking spaces would also be built as Sainsbury’s laid down a direct challenge to its rival Tesco, which also has a superstore in Kew.
A Sainsbury's spokesman said: "As Sainsbury's has stated previously, we are interested in an additional store in Southport.
“We are in advanced discussions with developers on a site for a potential second store in the town.
“If and when a formal agreement is reached, we will undertake a full public consultation with the community to present our proposals before any planning application is submitted.
“There are no plans to close our Lord Street store.
“As customers will know, we have recently undertaken a major refurbishment of the shop and, therefore, remain very much committed to the town centre.”
Sainsbury’s would not confirm where the site they are in “advanced discussions” over was. However, the promise to keep the town centre store open effectively rules out the former Waitrose building on Tulketh Street.
The building, which was also once a Morrisons, has been closed since 2006 and had been cited as a potential new destination for the expansion of Sainsbury’s in Southport by John Pugh MP.
Keen to protect town centre trade, Dr Pugh questioned Sainsbury’s’ commitment to Lord Street and has called for the supermarket chain to remain in the town centre, setting up a petition against the firm’s out-of-town expansion plans.
Dr Pugh said: “Sainsbury’s are undoubtedly now engaged on a charm offensive but in the cold light of day we must ask ourselves whether what is Sainsbury’s’ interest is in Southport’s interest.
“It is undeniable that the more people shop outside the town centre, the fewer shop inside the town centre.
“If we care for the vitality of our town centre we cannot be relaxed about this development or pretend it doesn't matter.”
Reaction to reports of Sainsbury’s’ draft proposals for Meols Cop Retail Park was mixed.
While concerns were raised about an increase in traffic at Kew roundabout and the future of the Lord Street store, many were in favour of a new Sainsbury’s superstore.
Christine Cropper is one of several shoppers who travels to Sainsbury’s superstores rather than shop elsewhere in Southport.
She said: “I currently travel monthly to Sainsbury’s store in Bamber Bridge because Sainsbury’s in Southport just does not stock all I want to purchase. I am totally in favour of a bigger store for Southport, not just for selfish reasons but because Southport needs to keep spending local.”
What do you think? Email reporter Joe Thomas at email@example.com