One year on, no sign of empty Northampton town centre stores being bought back to life

Former Tesco and Sainsbury sites remain vacant while plans for M&S site appear stalled

By Kevin Nicholls
Thursday, 20th January 2022, 10:16 am

Two former Northampton town centre supermarkets empty for nearly a year look set to stay vacant for a while yet.

Property agents marketing the old Tesco store in Abington Street and what used to be Sainsbury's in the Grosvenor Centre gave no indication of any interest or prospective retailers being lined up.

The two sites are currently the biggest of dozens of empty retail units in the town centre on the market.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

It's been nearly a year since Tesco and Sainsbury moved out of town centre sites — and both stores are still empty.

Tesco downsized its Metro store last February, opening a Tesco Express at smaller premises further down Abington Street leaving behind the 24,000 square feet unit, which was famously once home to Woolworths.

Agents Kens Estates, a Japanese firm based in London, are asking £15,000 a month for the property leasehold but hinted the owners are in discussions with West Northamptonshire Council over a planning application for the site.

WNC declined to comment on the Abington Street site but Cllr Lizzy Bowen, whose cabinet portfolio covers town centre regeneration, said: “The health, vitality and safety of our town centres is a priority, not least of all because it presents one of our most significant challenges.

"Footfall has been significantly below normal since the beginning of the pandemic and we are investing millions of pounds in the town centre as fast as we can to help with its resurgence when restrictions ease.

Plans for the former M&S store include flats and smaller retail units.

“As members of a wider partnership driving forward town centre regeneration, we have prioritised the Market Square and other public realm works which we think will help businesses thrive and will give residents a town centre we can all be proud of.”

Sainsbury's was a fixture in the Grosvenor Centre for 46 years until it shuttered the store last March to focus business on its out-of-town Weedon Road superstore and Sainsbury's Local in Wellingborough Road.

The 41,800 sq ft premises is being marketed leasehold by Avison Young, who said it was unable to comment over any potential interest or plans for the store.

Two former department stores in the town are already earmarked for development as flats.

Work to revamp the Market Square is due to start later this year.

Plans were approved last year for the old Debenhams store in Drapery to be converted into student accommodation following the chain's collapse.

A scheme for the council-owned Marks & Spencer and BHS buildings, opposite the old Tesco, includes small retail units under flats using £25million funding from the government's Towns Fund was confirmed in March 2021.

Work to clear asbestos from the site was completed last March but any concrete proposals have yet to reach the formal planning stage despite a target completion date of 2025.

Council Cabinet members are due to receive a report on the business case and delivery strategy for the site next month.

Work on an £8m revamp of the Market Square is due to start later this year and should be finished by 2024.