Warehouse plan for Newcastle Sainsbury's site under fire
A FORMER supermarket building could soon be used as a warehouse.
The old Sainsbury's in Liverpool Road, Newcastle, has been vacant since the supermarket opened its new store off the A34 in 2010.
Newcastle Borough Council and Staffordshire County Council, which jointly own the site, have requested a change of use from retail to general storage.
This would be for up to three years but the plan has attracted criticism.
Council Labour leader Gareth Snell yesterday declined to comment on the application.
His deputy Councillor Eddie Boden later claimed the planning application had been withdrawn.
But the application last night remained on the council's website.
MP for Newcastle-under-Lyme, Paul Farrelly, said he was 'disappointed to learn of the application'.
Mr Farrelly said: "I wasn't aware this was being planned and I am quite disappointed that the planning officers at Newcastle Borough Council haven't discussed this with me, as the local MP. "The old Sainsbury's site is important for the future attractiveness of Newcastle.
"Developing the site for use as a warehouse doesn't really send the most positive signal.
"I will be requesting further details on this site from the planning department."
The borough and county councils purchased the site in a multi-million pound deal in 2011.
Council leaders hope that the site will form part of a £60 million redevelopment scheme, creating up to 700 jobs.
But as this development could be several years away, the authorities have been looking for a short-term tenant to take on maintenance and security costs.
Newcastle Chamber of Trade and Enterprise president Carl Evans, who runs Cartridge World in George Street, also opposes the plan.
He said: "I understand the council need to generate income on an empty site but I'm not impressed with the prospect of a warehouse in the town centre.
"I don't know why there hasn't been a consultation with the Chamber of Trade."
Mr Evans said traders in Newcastle were suffering as a result of the recession. He said: "I don't see how a storage site will be of any use. I would be much happier if it was used for retail.
"They could lower rates and allow small businesses to use the space."
Simon Tagg, Newcastle borough councillor for May Bank Ward said he believes the council's long-term aim of developing the site for retail still stands.
He said: "The idea was for a retail development, possibly anchored by a department store.
"These are very difficult economic times. The short-term 36-month period of the change means I would expect they are looking long term to pursue their plans.
"Eventually, I would hope to see a combination of housing, business and retail elements on the site.
"This would encourage people to live on the edge of the town centre and improve business on the high street."