Tesco site: Demands grow to build affordable housing

Tesco.
Tesco.

Harrogate will remain the only major postcode in Britain without a Tesco - and many in the town are now calling for affordable housing, a business park or a park-and-ride to take its place.

Everyone seemed in shock after the surprise decision - including many of the town's leaders.

In a decision seemingly prompted by tough market conditions, Tesco confirmed offically that they have finally ditched their plans to build a superstore on the site for good.

Tesco CEO for the UK, Matt Davies said: “Following a detailed review we have taken the very difficult decision not to proceed with our planned Harrogate superstore. This decision was not taken lightly and we realise that many people locally will be disappointed.

“We are grateful for the support that has been shown for our plans over the years and our priority now will be to ensure the site is sold so that it can play a positive part in Harrogate’s future development.”

Having owned the site for nearly a decade, it’s not been an easy decision for Tesco to give up on their Harrogate ambition.

The company has made it clear their change of heart has been prompted by the economic climate rather than problems of popular support or any planning issues.

But anxious campaigners who claimed a new Tesco was not needed in the town and would cause increased traffic congestion will be delighted by the news.

Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce welcomed the news as a new “opportunity” and is calling for affordable housing and a coach park to be built.

Sandra Doherty, the CEO of Harrogate District Chamber, said: “In some ways it is disappointing that Tesco have decided not to proceed with their planned store at New Park. But for the most part I would see this as an opportunity to research the best use of this valuable site.

“This could have an impact on many missing elements of the Harrogate District Plan bringing not just jobs but hopefully a coach park which would see a big improvement to the accessibility for day visitors. “This is such a large site that affordable housing and small business units could also form part of a cohesive plan. “

Brian Dunsby, former chief executive of Harrogate Chamber also agreed it was imperative that the New Park site was developed on a multi-purpose basis for small businesses and affordable housing.

He said: “This is the news we have been campaigning for over many years and it’s a relief to finally have confirmation from Tesco that the store will not be built.

“Now we need to consider and lobby for what Harrogate really needs at New Park.”

The fact a firm decision has been made at all has been welcomed by almost everyone.

Cabinet Member for Tourism, Economic Development and Enterprise. Coun Graham Swift has long been calling for Tesco to spell out its future direction on the issue in a clear way.

He said the decision would come as a surprise to some people.

He said: “I think there will be a lot of people pleased by this decision. People have been looking for clarity from Tesco. I, myself, asked for a clear direction last week in the Harrogate Advertiser and we’ve got it.

“It’s not the clarity many will have been expecting but it’s a positive step.

“Tesco UK’s trading situation has been well publicised. They’ve been facing a number of complex commercial issues so the decision is not a surprise in that context.

“It’s a challenge when a major employers commits to something and then changes its mind but the council’s job now is to open a positive dialogue with Tesco about the new future for the site.

“Although the council is in control of planning, we can’t make any promises about what the land will become.

“It’s still Tesco’s land, they still own it.

“We need to open new discussions to see if anything can be done with the site which will help people in the area and the town as a whole.

UKIP County Coun for Harrogate and Knaresborough, David Simister, who last month wrote to Tesco Chief Executive Dave Lewis urging him to plug the plug on the New Park site, said he was delighted by the announcement.

He added: “This is wonderful news, and my hope is that a housing development solely for first-time buyers can be created here. This is what Harrogate is crying out for and this is the ideal location.”

But some people living at the New Park side of town will regret the absence of a large superstore on its doorstep.

And Lib Dem’s New Park Coun Matthew Webber said he was disappointed that residents in the surrounding area would continue to have to travel to shop.

He said: “We’ve got Aldi now, which gives people an option but I don’t think many people will do their whole week’s shop there.

“A Tesco would have been an ideal solution for people who don’t want to make the trek across town by car but want to shop locally.

“And it would have brought job opportunities.

“I am disappointed with the news, but we understand that there will be discussions about what the site can be used for now, and a way forward.”