Since Tesco’s announcement about its unprecedented national cost-cutting measures on 8 January, the council has been actively exploring every possible alternative development for Kirkby town centre.
We have made significant progress in that relatively short space of time and hope to make a positive announcement about a new development as soon as possible.
It is important to us that we keep you updated throughout this process. As such, here is an update on some of the key aspects of the regeneration programme:
New retail development
The council remains absolutely committed to delivering a new retail development in Kirkby town centre.
Since receiving Tesco’s decision on 8 January, we have approached 23 other retailers and developers, with a view to encouraging them to deliver new retail in the town centre.
Those discussions have been extremely encouraging and we are confident that a suitable development can and will be brought forward.
One thing which has become clear is that regeneration programmes led by major retailers like Tesco, Asda or Morrisons are no longer the way forward. This is a national issue and by no means specific to Kirkby – it is a reflection of national trends and the current market and business models.
As a result, we – like authorities across the country – are looking at an alternative retail model, based upon a wider mix of smaller retailers in the town centre.
We have received repeated assurances from Tesco that they will support us in finding an alternative retail plan and that they would even be prepared to sell their land in Kirkby town centre to a rival company.
While the council appreciates this commitment, we are also looking into acquiring Tesco’s land ourselves so that we can then deal directly with other developers or retailers in order to speed up the process.
Public realm improvements
Tesco’s contractors are continuing with their current work on-site in Kirkby and are carrying out the improvements to the appearance and layout of the existing town centre.
These works remain on schedule and are unaffected by Tesco’s cost-cutting measures on the retail side of the business.
Golden Eagle rubble
Tesco is now clearing the rubble on the site of the former Golden Eagle Hotel, at the council’s insistence.
Previously, the council had accepted Tesco’s view that the rubble should be left on-site so that it could be recycled and used as hard-core in the construction of the proposed new Tesco store.
That decision followed a consultation with local residents, who expressed a wish that the Golden Eagle be demolished and the rubble left on-site, rather than be left as a derelict building attracting anti-social behaviour.
Following Tesco’s announcement that Kirkby would be one of its 49 retail developments across the country not going ahead, there was no longer any reason for the rubble to remain on-site and the council insisted that Tesco must remove it.
This will be completed over the coming weeks.
Demolition of empty properties
The empty houses on Cherryfield Drive are owned by Tesco and the company began preparations for their demolition some weeks before its announcement that it would not be delivering a new retail store.
Tesco has since advised the council that the properties were in an extremely poor condition and that the utilities have been disconnected for some time.
Given the poor state of these properties and the fact that Tesco own the site and are looking to sell it, there was no realistic business case for bringing them back into use of “offering them for £1” as has been suggested. Nor, given the council’s proactive work in restoring empty properties across the borough and upcoming new developments, was there an urgent need to do so.
The site is being cleared and will still be earmarked for future development.
We will continue to keep you updated on the Kirkby regeneration programme via the council’s website, Facebook page and Twitter feed.