THE operator of Morpeth’s new supermarket has been revealed.
Morrisons will be relocating to a state-of-the-art 50,000 sq ft facility at Low Stanners, on a site currently being redeveloped by Dransfield Properties Ltd.
This means there will be another store wars battle, as its existing supermarket in Stanley Terrace will be sold once the move takes place.
Contractors Tolent started work on the site this week and once the main building work is completed in November 2012 Morrisons will fit out its new store, which is set to open in the Spring of 2013.
While its current staff will transfer across, the development will also provide some new jobs.
The company’s Development Executive, Andrew Wood, said: “This new food store represents a considerable investment and commitment to shoppers in Morpeth.
“This larger supermarket will enable us to offer our full range, concentrating on fresh food with great choice, great value and expert advice, all in a modern and inviting environment.”
Morrisons also confirmed that once it has relocated, its existing store will be sold to another operator as agreed with Northumberland County Council.
The project includes 283 short-stay car parking spaces as well as 296 lower level long-stay spaces.
Staithes Lane will be widened and a new roundabout installed at the junction with Dark Lane, while landscaping will include trees and a fountain.
To enable the supermarket and associated works to be carried out, the county council depots, Robson and Prescott vets, the Old Red Bull Inn and the T Thompson and Sons garage will be demolished.
The pub closed earlier this month, while the garage and vets are moving to new larger premises in Coopies Lane and Whorral Bank respectively.
Dransfield Properties Ltd Retail Property Director, Andrew Malley, said: “We are delighted to be working with Morrisions to deliver a full-sized store for the company here in Morpeth and we look forward to the new store opening.
“The town’s long-term success and viability depends on resisting supermarket developments out of town and the Low Stanners development has been carefully designed to deliver a good-sized store with excellent links to the town centre.”
Members of the county council’s North Area Planning Committee unanimously backed Dransfield’s detailed application in July despite concerns from Staithes Lane residents.
They believe the noise of delivery wagons will have a serious impact and not enough is being done to alleviate traffic along Dark Lane, which they fear will lead to drivers using Staithes Lane as a rat run.
The supermarket was approved by the committee in outline form last year.
At the same meeting, it rejected bids from Tesco and Sainsbury’s for stores in the Coopies Lane Industrial Estate and in a field off the A196 and A192 at Stobhill respectively.
It has been rumoured that if Morrisons was to be the operator of the new store, Waitrose would move into the company’s existing supermarket.
A Waitrose spokeswoman said: “We are always looking for suitable sites, but we do not have any current plans for a new store in Morpeth.”
l As part of the traffic improvement works, widening of the bus link to Stanley Terrace is in progress.
Traffic management is in place in preparation for the road surfacing, erection of road signage and laying kerbs to their new line.
If all goes according to plan, Tolent is aiming to undertake the planing of the road and road surfacing to both the bus link widening and Stanley Terrace during tomorrow night.
It then intends to complete the works, including the white lines, a few nights later.