Expansion of Morrisons store in Wetherby to go ahead as planned

Morrisons' fresh produce department
Morrisons' fresh produce department

Expansion of the Morrisons store in Wetherby will go ahead as proposed, it has been revealed.

Plans to expand the supermarket by 10,000 sq ft were announced in April 2012 and submitted to Leeds City Council the following month.

Though the application was approved by the council at that time, and the work scheduled to begin last October, Morrisons has still not made a start.

A Morrisons spokesperson said: “It is still our intention to extend the Wetherby store but we knew from the outset that this would be a lengthy process.

“It is a challenge to extend an already trading store and added to this is the consideration we need to give to the existing tenants in the neighbouring units.

“Shoppers should have already noticed the initial stages of our store improvement programme following our significant investment in upgrading the store to our vibrant fresh format.

“The next step is to deliver on the car park improvements we promised and we are close to agreeing a deal with Leeds City Council which will unlock this stage.

“Morrisons is committed to funding extensive car park works which will improve the existing facilities and deliver over 100 new town centre shopper and visitor car parking spaces, as detailed in the approved store extension planning application.

“We appreciate that our customers are keen to see the store extended and I want to reassure them that it remains our intention. We will continue to work closely with our tenants and Leeds City Council to deliver the plans and ask that our shoppers bear with us as we work through the stages of this complex scheme.”

As work has not yet taken place there has been much speculation among residents and business owners.

Wetherby business Blu Hair Pink Beauty rents its present location from Morrisons and has done since it opened almost a decade ago.

Business owner Michelle Oliver, said before the confirmation: “I haven’t been informed by the store or Morrisons head office – I just heard from a client that the expansion had been cancelled.

“Just from gossip from clients, I heard that the expansion wasn’t going ahead due to the potential influx of other supermarkets.

“They have refitted inside and the feedback from my clients and team is that it is much nicer.

“Perhaps they didn’t need to spend all the money on enlarging and just needed to do it up.”

Resident Paul Heaton wrote to Morrisons and was told that the expansion to the Wetherby store had been cancelled.

Speaking this week, he said: “I was concerned about the impact the expansion will have on the businesses in the area. There has been much uncertainty and it would have a big impact on the town and Morrisons’ relationship with the peiple they are supposed to be supporting.

I hadn’t seen any progress on the site, so I wrote to Morrisons.

“A member of staff in the store said the refurbishment was as far as they are going.”

Going ahead, the initial plans may mean the relocation of businesses housed in the Horsefair Shopping Centre to make room for the expansion.

At the time, some shop owners expressed concern at having to find a new location.

The lengthy period of uncertainty has been exacerbated by the announcement that Morrisons also want to increase town centre parking for residents and shoppers by refurbishing the Hallfield Lane lorry park and making it free to use.

Mr Heaton said: “A concern I have is the impact the expansion will have on the businesses in the area. There has been much uncertainty and it would have a big impact on the town and Morrisons’ relationship with the people they are supposed to be supporting.”

Another concern raised by the local community was the disruption caused by the building work to make way for the expansion.

Ms Oliver said: “The work being carried out would have affected us. When they did Horsefair a few years ago it was six months of hell and people didn’t come to us as much.

“The expansion would have affected us in that way, however in the long term the more people that are attracted into the town the better it is for business.

“We were happy, and I use the word loosely, for it to go through. It would have been difficult for businesses during the work, but in the long term it would have been helpful.”