Saturday, 28 November 2020

Waitrose puts brakes on re-development

PLANS to transform the shopping precinct in Caversham are in doubt after Waitrose said it no longer planned to expand it store

PLANS to transform the shopping precinct in Caversham will still go ahead despite Waitrose saying it no longer wants to expand its store.

The redevelopment of the St Martin?s Precinct, which was approved in February, will include new apartments, restaurants, shops and a cinema, and is expected to create 70 jobs.

The Waitrose store would have by extended by a third but this week the company announced it had reviewed its plans and had decided not to progress with them.

It said the decision followed ?well documented changes in trading conditions across the supermarket sector and shifts in customer shopping patterns?.

Investment company Hermes, which owns the precinct, says the redevelopment will still go ahead and will create a ?high street? feel with the extra shops, a new Caversham Square and improved access to the River Thames.

Matthew Chillingworth, the firm?s asset manager, said: ?We are, of course, disappointed that for commercial reasons Waitrose has chosen not to extend their store at this time, although they will remain a tenant at the St Martin?s Centre.

?At present, we are liaising closely with Reading Borough Council and other stakeholders on the likely implications for the wider regeneration of the shopping centre.

?However, we would like to reassure the local community that we still intend to carry out improvement works to the centre in line with the approved plans.

?We hope to make a further statement in due course on exactly which elements of the approved plans will be impacted.?

Caversham Traders Association called Waitroses?s decision ?disappointing?.

Chairman Chris Walton, of Waltons Jewellers and Goldsmiths, said: ?It?s very sad really and we all feel a bit deflated.

? If they are going to do part of it there are some parts where there will be questions marks. The difficulty is it?s an old shopping centre built in the late Sixties or early Seventies and looks very tired now.

?The redevelopment was probably as good as it was ever going to get and then this happens and it?s a real blow.

?I would imagine they?ll be a minus in relation to the car parking space now.? Mr Walton said work was due to start to this month but had been called off, at least temporarily. Nobody knows where we go from here,? he said.

?It wouldn?t surprise me if it was back to square one. With the precinct being privately owned, it?s out of our hands ? we have no say in it.

?Hermes are probably as devastated as everyone else.?

He added: ?Caversham is a great place to shop ? it has got a lot of independent shops and we want people to come here.?

A Waitrose spokesman aid: ?It is not a decision we have taken lightly.

?Our intention was always to reach an agreement with Hermes in order to deliver a larger branch with an improved shopping experience for our customers.

?We are grateful to Hermes and the council?s planners for all their efforts.

?We are sorry for any disappointment and would like to thank everyone who gave us their feedback during the consultation.

?We will continue to work hard to build on 30 years of serving Caversham and provide a service that encourages shoppers to visit the town.?

When the development was approved, the council?s planning committee said the precinct upgrade was ?overdue? and the investment was a ?once in a lifetime opportunity.?

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