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Wednesday, 22 October 2014

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Tesco reviewing plans for superstore at Morton in Carlisle

Tesco is reviewing plans for another superstore in Carlisle, casting doubt over its £30m project earmarked for Morton.

Tesco Morton site photo
Land at Morton earmarked for the store

The supermarket chain has had a difficult year, seeing profits squeezed as it lost customers to budget retailers such as Aldi and Lidl, and to upmarket Waitrose.

Earlier this month it announced the departure of chief executive Philip Clarke and a change of strategy, saying it would build fewer big stores and more convenience stores.

That cast doubt on the proposal for Morton, where Tesco has yet to complete the purchase of a 12-acre site earmarked for a 90,000sq ft superstore.

The land is owned by Carlisle City Council, which obtained outline planning permission for a store before inviting offers for the land from supermarkets and developers.

It named Tesco as the successful bidder in May last year.

Tesco spokesman Mark Thomas said: “We are looking at our options for our site at Morton and will provide an update to the community soon. We keep our plans under review to ensure we’re proposing what is best for our customers and the community.”

Nationally, Tesco is releasing land that it no longer needs for new stores to build up to 4,000 homes.

Mr Thomas added: “We only buy land with the intention of delivering developments. In the instances where we no longer intend to develop sites for stores, we sell them, lease them or develop them for housing.”

The Cumberland News understands that Tesco had agreed to pay £28m for the land at Morton.

However, the council was negotiating to acquire Tesco-owned land in Viaduct Estate as part of the deal. This has planning permission for a 40,000sq ft store, which Tesco shelved in favour of the Morton scheme.

The council remains hopeful that the Morton store will proceed, creating 300 jobs.

A spokeswoman said: “As with all property transactions, time is needed to meet the aspirations of all those involved. In this case, we want to make sure we get the best deal for the Morton site. Negotiations are ongoing.”

If Tesco were to pull out, it would pile further pressure on the council’s finances.

The authority had earmarked some of the cash to repay a £15m loan that matures in 2020 and to help fund new capital projects, such as a replacement for James Street swimming baths.

Tesco already has a superstore at Rosehill, Carlisle, and a smaller Metro branch in the city centre, which it refurbished in 2012.

It also owns the One Stop convenience store in Newtown Road and Dobbies Garden World at Orton Grange.

Tesco said last week that it remained “committed” to building a new convenience store behind the former Horse & Farrier pub in Wigton Road, Carlisle.

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