WORK has begun on Tesco’s new Sunderland superstore, almost a decade after the retail giant first submitted plans in the city.
Council leader Paul Watson and Tesco corporate affairs manager Doug Wilson were on site at Roker’s Sunderland Retail Park this morning, as contractors started on a new superstore development and four smaller retail units.
Barr Construction is building the 8,378m² Tesco Extra, set to open in spring 2013.
“The new Tesco development will create hundreds of new jobs with the superb supermarket and new smaller shops,” said Coun Watson. “It will also boost regeneration and the breadth of retail offered in the city.
“It represents millions of pounds of investment at one of the key gateways into the city centre.”
He added: “It’s great to see construction starting on site.
“We’ve worked with our partners at Tesco to reach this point and this is an important day for all of us involved.”
“The creation of hundreds of new job opportunities is welcome, positive news for Sunderland and the region.
“It will bring new life to an important part of our city.”
Mr Wilson: “We have been working closely with Sunderland City Council and other public sector bodies to reach this point, and we are delighted to see the work start on site.”
Tesco has liaised with the council on plans for the new complex, including improved access and landscaping to the retail park, which will see a combination of new units with other buildings being revitalised for existing businesses.
But the relationship between local authority and retail chain has not always been so cosy.
Tesco first submitted plans for a superstore in October 2002.
But that proposal was for the former Vaux site, which the chain snapped up after the brewery closed in 1999.
Tesco’s plan for a £150million complex including a huge supermarket, 90-bed hotel, offices and 500 homes, fell foul of the council and regeneration company Sunderland arc, which had its own vision for the site.
It was not until January 2006 that Tesco confirmed it would be willing to sell the Vaux site if an alternative location could be found – although it ruled out the Holmeside Triangle area.
Hope that a resolution could be in sight emerged in 2008, when it was confirmed Tesco was the “preferred operator” for a proposed new superstore on the Sunderland Retail Park site.