New Suffolk store for Waitrose?

HOPES are high that a major national retailer will create a multi-million pound operation in a Suffolk town.

John Howard

HOPES are high that a major national retailer will create a multi-million pound operation in a Suffolk town.

Supermarket giant Waitrose could be set to move into Stowmarket after Marks & Spencer pulled out of a project in the town last year.

Seventeen months ago developers were given the go-ahead for proposals that were forecast to bring a £9million boost to the town, including a new M&S food store.

The major scheme, at the former Seamans builders' yard, would have created more than 110 jobs, but M&S decided not to proceed with the deal last July.

Now, a new planning application has been submitted on the site that will create a retail development, possibly for a rival.

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Although no operator has been named in the new application, Waitrose said yesterday it was aware of an opportunity to trade from the site.

A spokesman said: “Waitrose are always actively looking for new locations and, whilst we have been made aware of this opportunity, we are unable to discuss specific sites.”

Tim Passmore, Conservative leader of Mid Suffolk District Council, said he would welcome the move.

“A high quality retail development would put Stowmarket on the map.

“We want a mixture of high quality retailers, not just big multi-nationals, but smaller speciality shops.

“We do not want a cloned high street. Stowmarket is expanding, and lots of people are moving in. I am delighted about this.”

Andrew Stringer, an opposition councillor who runs a small business locally, said: “Stowmarket is at a turning point and we have to get the right mix of retailers.

“If the rumours of a quality retailer are true this would be a step in the right direction and will help regenerate that end of town. This would bring new jobs and has to be good news.”

Dave Benham, regeneration manager with the authority, said an application had been submitted within the last few days on the site of the failed M&S bid.

He said: “This will be a big boost to the town, although at this stage who will operate it is not yet known and we should hear within the next month or so. It is a multi-million pound development for a retail and convenience store.”

Mid Suffolk councillors unanimously voted to grant planning permission for a new retail development at the end of November 2006, that would in part have been taken up in part by an M&S Simply Food store, creating up to 35 full-time jobs and 17 part-time positions, with a further 40 full-time and 20 part-time jobs with two additional unspecified retailers.

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