Huntingdon: Sainsbury’s approval will ‘bring High Street names and High Street improvements’

THE decision by Huntingdonshire councillors on Monday to approve a new Sainsbury’s store in Huntingdon in principle will bring other nationally-known retailers to the town centre and revitalise the north end of the High Street.

The approval – which is subject to agreement with professional planners on a myriad details – could mean the end of out-of-town overtrading sucking the lifeblood out of the town centre.

Sainsbury’s said yesterday (Tuesday): “The plans will see a new 57,000 sq ft supermarket regenerate the industrial site between Brampton Road/George Street and St John’s Street.

“The existing Sainsbury’s store in Chequers Court will close and this area will be redeveloped to bring nationally-recognised retailers into the town centre.

“The planning approval comes on the back of support from many local people and community groups, including Huntingdonshire Town Council.

Robert Oxley, Sainsbury’s development executive for the East of England, added: “We are delighted with the decision. We have always felt that these proposals gave Huntingdon a ‘once in a generation’ opportunity to revitalise the town centre and attract people back who are currently shopping elsewhere.

“We will create jobs, make Huntingdon better for shoppers and bring a significant boost to the local economy.”

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The new store is expected to open in 2013.

Huntingdonshire District Council’s head of planning services, Steve Ingram, who will have the final say on the outstanding detail, said one of the key elements to be tied up over the coming months was the Section 106 planning gain agreement.

This would probably mean Sainsbury’s refurbishing St John’s Passage between the High Street and St John’s Street (ring road) and paying for upgrading the ‘streetscape’ between the passage and George Street.

“We need to encourage people to walk throughout the town centre,” Mr Ingram said yesterday.

The supermarket giant will also be expected to make a handsome contribution to the �4million cost of the new link road between Brampton Road and Ermine Street and to the �3.5m multi-storey car park that is about to be built close to its existing site at Chequers Court.

“It’s a step forward. We are losing a lot of trade out of the town at the moment,” Mr Ingram added.

Planners have for years been concerned about Tesco ‘overtrading’ at its Abbots Ripton Road store, discouraging shoppers from using Huntingdon town centre.

The Huntingdon West development, of which the new Sainsbury’s store is a key part, combined with impending re-development of Chequers Court by both the grocer and the neighbouring landowner Churchmanor Estates, are aimed at bringing shoppers back to the town centre.