Waitrose could open biggest UK store

UPMARKET food chain Waitrose is in negotiations to open its biggest ever UK store in Colchester, the EADT can reveal.

Roddy Ashworth

UPMARKET food chain Waitrose is in negotiations to open its biggest ever UK store in Colchester, the EADT can reveal.

Initial plans are being submitted to turn a former DIY and furniture outlet into a supermarket on the town's A133 bypass.

The proposals, which have been under discussion for some time, would see the Glyn Webb building in St Andrew's Avenue overhauled to accommodate Waitrose, which is part of the John Lewis Partnership.

At first it was feared that problems with the location of the building - which stands opposite Home Base - could scupper plans to set up the store.

These related to its existing planning designation as a retailer of bulky goods only, and traffic access to and from the A133, which often becomes congested.

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The EADT, however, understands that after considering the plans Essex County Council Highways department is broadly supportive of the scheme, which would allow its planning designation to be changed.

Waitrose's project board is now expected to discuss the Colchester proposal next Monday and, if it agrees to proceed, to put it to the company's full board on May 8.

A survey conducted on behalf of the Colchester Town Partnership early last year identified Waitrose as one of the top three retailers local shoppers most wanted to come to the town.

Yesterday Ian Ferguson, policy manager for Colchester and North Essex Chambers of Commerce, welcomed news that the chain was looking to open a store.

“I think this is fantastic news for the town,” he said. “What it does, in a funny sort of way, is put Colchester on a map that it hasn't been on before.

“John Lewis and Waitrose are two of the crème-de-la-crème names in UK retailing. It may provide some competition for the other big supermarkets such as Tesco and Asda, but is that a bad thing?

“If you bring a big name like that into Colchester, it can only be for the good of both the traders and the shoppers,” he said.

Robert Davidson, Colchester Borough Council leader, said he was delighted to hear that Waitrose was considering coming to the town.

“The council is often in active discussion with leading retailers and other businesses that may want to look at the possibility of operating in Colchester.

“It is very exciting that this quality store wants to come here. It is payback time for the significant growth and investment Colchester has experienced.”

Last night Waitrose issued a short statement confirming the firm was keen to operate in Colchester. “However, we have no announcements at this time,” the statement added.

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