Questions raised over the delay in approving Waitrose bid for new store in Northampton

editorial image

Upmarket supermarket giant Waitrose says its hopes of opening a new store in Wootton could now be a year behind schedule.

The Chron revealed last October how the supermarket chain hoped to build a supermarket by this autumn, next to the Northampton Garden Centre in Newport Pagnell Road.

However, in a letter to borough council planning chief, Susan Bridge, Waitrose’s head of property development, James Gilhooley, said: “We are becoming increasingly frustrated by the delay in determining our application bearing in mind our initial expectation, based on discussion with planning officers, was the application would be determined last January.”

Waitrose is urging the council to consider it as the earliest available opportunity on July 24, saying the plan was modest in scale with “minimal impact” on the town centre.

A Waitrose spokesman said: “We remain firmly committed to our proposal. We are hopeful of receiving a planning committee date soon. We have been really encouraged by the fantastic response to our proposals with 96 per cent of those who attended our exhibition in October last year supporting the plans in principle and the many letters of support that have been submitted to the Council since.

“We would welcome the opportunity to create 120 new jobs for local people and provide Wootton with a high quality supermarket. If our application is successful, we would hope to start on site later this year and have the new store open before the end of 2013.”

Northampton Borough Council officials said it was inappropriate to comment on any discussions before the planning application is determined.

A spokesman added: “We have been waiting for further technical studies to be completed that would help inform the council’s planning committee ahead of making a decision.

“This has been received and our committee will make a decision in due course.”

When Waitrose revealed its plans last October, it hoped the new store would be up and running this autumn, creating 120 jobs.

The 15,000 sq ft store would be about half the size of the one in Kingsthorpe and include meat, fish, deli and cheese counters as well as a cafe and parking for 450 cars.

Waitrose carried out a public consultation shortly afterwards and received 96 per cent support.

The earliest possible date for Northampton Borough Council to discuss the plans will be July 24. The next available date would be September 4.

It has also emerged that two months ago, Legal & General wrote to the Guildhall to oppose the Waitrose plans for Wootton claiming that it was at a “critical stage” in progressing plans for the Grosvenor Centre and restating its own opposition to further out-of-town-retail development.