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Waitrose is developers' preferred option for Darlington supermarket development
A WAITROSE supermarket could be heading to Darlington as part of a £25m project.
Harrogate-based developers Lateral Property Group plan to redevelop the Garden Street car park area off St Cuthbert’s Way near Northgate to accommodate a 47,000sq ft supermarket with up to 200 parking spaces.
The scheme is in its very early stages, but Lateral’s managing director, Philip Lunn, said that Waitrose was one of the names he would most like to attract to the site.
Waitrose bosses revealed at the weekend that the company plans to triple in size by opening the equivalent of 20 new stores a year over the next decade.
If successful, the development would create up to 300 jobs for Darlington.
Research indicates Darlington town centre only has a nine per cent food retail offering and Mr Lunn believes that a food store is needed to bring some of the £200m being spent at the borough’s out of town supermarkets back into the town centre.
He said: “The store would be about half the size of Sainsbury’s (on Victoria Road).
“People shouldn’t be worried that it is some Goliath that is going to land; it is a sensible sized store that will promote footfall in the town centre.”
The proposals fit with Darlington Borough Council’s town centre regeneration plans which include overhauling the Northgate roundabout and the pedestrian underpass system which have isolated northern Northgate from the town centre.
Depending on the supermarket operator, it is hoped that the car park would be free for up to two hours and the improved connectivity between north and south Northgate would encourage more people to walk into the town centre once they’d finished their food shop.
Mr Lunn said: “What we are hearing is that people hate the underpasses.
“We would like to scrap the underpasses completely and reconfigure the Northgate junction with pedestrian crossings.
“We are still working through detailed designs with artists but we are looking at a completely new junction which will still deal with the volume of traffic but provide far better access for pedestrians.”
Mr Lunn said that the development, which also includes a riverside park, would make a substantial contribution to the regeneration of the northern town centre in the same way the proposed Feethams leisure complex will improve the southern area.
He added: "These are excting times for Darlington."
Lateral intends to submit outline planning permission before the end of the year, and if successful it is hoped that the development will be complete by 2016.
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