A SUPERMARKET giant has pulled out of the race to build a new city centre store on the site of one of Southampton’s biggest regeneration projects.
Aldi will no longer be involved in proposals for a new grocery store on the former East Street shopping centre site.
The budget chain were in talks to develop a supermarket on the vacant city centre site, which would have been its second store in the city.
However, civic chiefs say talks broke down due to the retailer’s “inflexibility” over the use of the land.
According to Simon Letts, leader of Southampton City Council, the supermarket giant refused to budge over its familiar single-storey design.
He said: “This is a city centre site and we need to treat it in that way.
“For us Aldi’s plan didn’t work for the city centre. We want to make better use of the land.”
Councillor Letts said he hoped for a mixed development of general use flats and a supermarket.
Aldi did not offer a response to questions over its involvement in the East Street development.
However, in a statement, an Aldi spokesperson said: “We are always considering new locations for stores in areas across the UK, including in Southampton.
“When we have confirmed a location for a new store we will update the local community.”
Meanwhile, councillor Letts added that talks were ongoing with land owners, National Regional, to develop a plan for the vacant one acre site.
The Hampshire-based company bought the land this year from Kier – the developer who is currently converting neighbouring office block, Capital House, into a 423-room student accommodation.
That project, which also includes a set of town houses, is expected to be completed in August 2018.
A spokeswoman for National Regional Property Group said: “We have purchased an area of land at Lime Street, however no decisions have been made on the use of the site as yet.
“Once we have proposed plans we’ll be consulting with the public to get their thoughts.”
Councillor Letts said he expects the council will see more finalised plans as early as spring next year.
He suggested that Aldi’s rival, Lidl, would be the prime candidate to secure the budget supermarket slot.
However, the retailer has confirmed it was not interested in taking on the site.
A spokesperson said: “(This is) due to the close proximity to an existing Lidl store on Southampton High Street, along with the size of the site and physical size constraints of the unit, access limitations and inevitable inadequate parking facilities.”
Aldi are now the second supermarket to pull out of the former East Street Shopping site, after Morrisons in 2015.
The British supermarket chain – the fourth largest in the UK – was set to build a 60,000sq ft supermarket and top floor car-park on site, creating 400 jobs.
But doubts about it began to emerge after the landowner, the De Stefano Property Group, went bust, and intensified after Morrisons announced plans to close loss-making stores in 2014.
The supermarket chain finally announced it was pulling the plug on the plans a year later.
The land has remained vacant ever since.
One person to comment on the news of Aldi’s withdrawal was Bargate councillor John Noon.
He said: “With regard to Aldi, that is my understanding and I’m quite disappointed, but the developer is still seeking a grocery retail unit at the site.
“On a personal level I would like to see a quality value for money grocery unit on the site with some social housing; the planning brief for the site does include a grocery and retail unit.
“If that cannot be achieved – and I don’t think we are at that stage yet, then perhaps some new thought does need to be considered.
“With all the new developments from the two on this part of East Street and the Bargate development, this part of the city does have great opportunities for traders and a much improved environment for city centre residents.”
Source: Daily Echo