A huge new £200m building which is set to become the distribution hub for a fast-growing garden and leisure retail chain has been unveiled in Suffolk.

The Range will start to move into its new 1.17 million sq ft facility at Gateway 14 in Stowmarket in spring, and will employ a total of around 1650 people at the vast new site.

Gateway 14 is a freeport site which means those occupying it will benefit from various tax and other breaks.

The distribution site will serve around a third of The Range's outlets - which are set to include some Wilko/Wilkinson's stores after it bought the online arm of the collapsed retailer. It has started to purchase some of its shops - with the first at Plymouth, Exeter and Luton.

East Anglian Daily Times:

Gateway 14 is owned by Mid Suffolk District Council which asked private developer Jaynic to drive its ambition for the site.

Landing The Range is a huge coup for the council and means that the entire business, innovations and logistics park occupying 156 acres is already in the black.

An eight-month fit-out of the building is due to start in January, but work on the building shell began in January 2023 and was completed earlier this month - on time and on budget.

Other buildings are planned for the park, including a speculative 164,500sq ft unit which Jaynic is applying to build speculatively, and the council's own skills and innovation centre.

Council leader Andy Mellen welcomed the boost to jobs and prosperity the new site would bring. He added that the new Green administration - which inherited the scheme from the previous Tory administration - was committed to delivering the new building.

"I think the important thing for us is to make sure that it fits our priorities so we are really glad to see it has been built to really high environmental standards and they have got things like really good walking, cycling and connectivity into the town," he said.

East Anglian Daily Times:

"We still need to fill out the rest of the site but it's made the whole of the site wash its face.

"We are grateful to The Range for doing that and to Jaynic for delivering it in such good time. The construction firm Winvic has done a remarkable job and they have delivery a very high spec building at remarkable speed."

Tony George, head of supply chain at The Range, said the site would be used to store products arriving from the UK and via the Port of Felixstowe.

"This is very exciting - this is part of our supply chain strategy," he said. "The spade went in the ground in January and here we are in November and we have got an excellent standard of building up and ready for us to operate from."

The company was now  responding to a public "clamour" for some Wilko stores to be saved - although a number have already been sold to Poundland and B&M, he explained.

"It's part of The Range family now," he said.

East Anglian Daily Times:

The building, a new distribution centre for garden and leisure retailer The Range, has been completed by Gateway 14 Ltd - a wholly owned subsidiary of Mid Suffolk District Council, with development partner Jaynic, and undertaken by contractor Winvic Construction Ltd.

Jaynic founder Nic Rumsey said the building had been delivered in 39 weeks to one of the fastest-growing retailers in the UK.

The council's' Gateway 14 arm had shown "true leadership, grit and determination" to take what was a complicated site with separate road networks and brought it together as a Freeport East site, he said.

East Anglian Daily Times:

Sir Chris Haworth, chair of Gateway 14, admitted that it was "an emotional day" for him.

"I would like to say here and now Jaynic, what a fantastic job you have done," he said. The project showed what public-private partnership working could achieve, he added.

"Not only does it bring over 1,600 jobs to this prime location, but it also delivers the first building on the new highly sustainable, mixed-use Gateway 14 development, set in an attractive parkland setting. We already have further strong interest in the park and expect to be able to identify new occupiers in the near future.”