A Tesco rescue plan has dealt a hammer blow to three North East communities are plans for vital new stores were scrapped.
Civic leaders in Amble, Northumberland, and in Stanley and Peterlee, County Durham, are counting the cost after the supermarket giant said it would not now be proceeding with plans for new stores in those towns.
The announcement formed part of plans by Tesco chief executive Dave Lewis to turn around the fortunes of the beleaguered business, which revealed like-for-like sales for the 19 weeks to January 3 fell by 2.9%.
Measures include the closure of 43 stores across the UK at locations yet to be announced – potentially putting hundreds of North East jobs in jeopardy – the axing of its final salary pension, and the sale of Tesco’s broadband and download business.
The cancellation of the three North East stores - among 49 nationally - will have significant impact for the regeneration of those towns.
Yesterday North Durham Labour MP Kevan Jones called for urgent action to be taken at the site in Stanley town centre, which was to form the focus of a larger scheme.
He said: “I was of course very disappointed to learn that Tesco are unable to proceed with the proposed store in Stanley, as I believe it would have been very beneficial for the town and part of a much wider redevelopment.
“What’s important now is that Tesco, as a matter of urgency, work with the local community to find a solution with regard to the site, to ensure that it does not remain a blight on the town centre.
“It’s a big decision to stop this plan but I want someone else to take it over. I will be arranging to speak to representatives from Tesco about this as soon as possible.”
Amble town councillor Ian Hinson labelled the news a “disaster”, and expected the Duke of Northumberland’s estates – the company’s partner on the new scheme – to now bid to build more houses on the site.
He said: “It is a bit of a disaster to put it mildly. There has been a lot of store by it to bring people into Amble. It looks like Northumberland Estates will look for the alternative which is housing. I can not see anything else on the horizon as far as Amble is concerned now.”
In Peterlee, the potential to create around 400 jobs has been lost after Tesco scrapped its proposed redevelopment of the former East Durham College site.
Easington MP Grahame Morris said: “I am immensely disappointed that Tesco will not go ahead with a new store on the former college site in the centre of Peterlee, and deliver the jobs and investment they promised.
“I know from conversations I have had with the community that local residents supported the development, and were eager for Tesco’s to proceed after they were granted planning permission.”
A fourth store at Gateshead’s Metrocentre has also been axed – although Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley’s retail empire Sports Direct and leisure firm The Range will now lease that building.
It is understood the two firms will soon move into the building, the former Metro Outlet adjacent to the Asda store.
A spokesman for Tesco added: “We did have permission for a store at the former furniture store at the Metrocentre but we are no longer building that, but we are letting it out to Sports Direct and The Range and that’s coming forward for investment and important.”