PLANS for a £30M Tesco superstore in Accrington have been given the Government’s stamp of approval.
The 8,000 square metre store on the site of the old SkillCentre on Eagle Street is now certain to go ahead despite opposition from many town centre traders who fear for their livelihoods.
The Government Office North West has decided not to "call in" the plan for an independent review.
This means the decision in favour of the store made by Hyndburn Council’s Planning Committee in June will stand and a further inquiry will not be needed.
A spokesman for Tesco said: "We were very pleased when Hyndburn Council approved the plans and we are delighted we can now move forward with the project."
He said Tesco would shortly begin negotiations with contractors to build the store, which will create up to 450 jobs. It could open as early as next summer.
Before then it needs to conclude an agreement with Hyndburn Council to pump nearly £1M into the regeneration of Accrington town centre.
The company has also pledged that the new store’s 600 parking spaces will be available for people who want to walk into town.
Hyndburn Council leader Peter Britcliffe this week urged shop owners to face the challenge of competing with the supermarket giant.
He said: "Tesco investing in the town centre proves Accrington
is not the dire place some people make it out to be."
However, some traders are still convinced it could spell the death knell for small shopkeepers.
Michael Whewell of Hyndburn Chamber of Trade said: "Town centres up and down the country are trying to face the challenges Tesco brings with no success."
The chamber is vehemently opposed to the site on the edge of the town centre, fearing shoppers will just park there and then drive home.
Ray James, director of Asset Management – the investment company which owns the Arndale Centre – said he was disappointed with the announcement.
He said: "The local authority has shot the town centre in the foot. Tesco will open in 2009 and we will see shops in Accrington town centre close in another four or five years’ time.
"But no matter what we say, the local authority will do what it wants."
He said it was now unlikely Sainsbury’s would go ahead with a plan for a superstore at the rear of the Arndale Centre, which traders would have preferred.
A decision on plans for a smaller Tesco in Great Harwood, which was the subject of a public inquiry, will be made at the latest by the beginning of December.
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