Tesco assurance on Fratton store plan

An artist's impression of the proposed Tesco development next to Fratton Park.
An artist's impression of the proposed Tesco development next to Fratton Park.
The countryside surrounding Harting Down in the South Downs National Park, in West Sussex.

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TESCO says it remains committed to building a new supermarket next to Fratton Park despite a decision to close more than 40 stores.

The assurance came as Tesco said it is shutting its head office as well as 43 unprofitable stores as part of a raft of new measures as new boss Dave Lewis battles to turn around the group’s fortunes.

But he told The News today: ‘We’ve carefully reviewed our planned new store developments across the country and it remains our intention to open our planned store in Portsmouth.

‘We continue to believe that the store will provide a valued service to the local community.

‘The new store will provide a great shopping experience as well as bringing new jobs and investment to the area.’

And in a letter to Milton ward councillor Ben Dowling, Tesco’s south east corporate affairs manager Jack Pearson said: ‘As you will have read in the media, our performance as a business has fallen significantly short of where we would want it to be.

‘As a result the financial resources we have available for new investment are severely constrained and we have had to critically review all current and future investment decisions.

‘Our absolute imperative has to be to protect the future of our business for the c.300,000 colleagues we employ in communities all over the UK.

‘In recent weeks we have had to face up to some very tough decisions which affect many hard-working people.

‘We don’t do that lightly and so it is with a heavy heart that we are announcing today that we are unable to proceed with 49 new planned store developments across the country.

‘I am conscious that you may see this news and be concerned about the future of our plans in Portsmouth.

‘However, I would like to reassure you that it remains our intention to open our planned store.

‘We continue to believe that the store would provide a valued service to the local community and we know that many people are keenly anticipating the opening.

‘We are looking forward to bringing new jobs and investment to Portsmouth, and providing local customers with the best we have to offer.’

Britain’s biggest supermarket made the announcement as it revealed like-for-like sales for the 19 weeks to January 3 fell by 2.9 per cent, though they were not as bad over the six-week period, with a fall of 0.3 per cent.

Tesco also said it was to close its final salary pension scheme and shut its main headquarters in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, in 2016, moving to Welwyn Garden City.

A restructuring of central overheads is expected to save £250 million a year.

In addition to the shutting of shops, the group announced a “significant revision” to its store-building programme.

It is also selling Tesco Broadband and UK download business Blinkbox to TalkTalk and exploring options for the disposal of its dunhumby data business, as well as cancelling a final-year dividend for 2014/15.

The raft of announcements came as the supermarket also fired the latest salvo in a New Year price war, by cutting the cost of some of its best-known products.

Mr Lewis added: ‘We have some very difficult changes to make. I am very conscious that the consequences of these changes are significant for all stakeholders in our business but we are facing the reality of the situation.

‘Our recent performance gives us confidence that when we pull together and put the customer first we can deliver the right results.’

Communities secretary Eric Pickles granted planning permission last September for the 24-hour supermarket behind the Fratton End at the home of Pompey.

The announcement ensured the club landed a seven-figure sum from Tesco developers Point Estates Ltd towards stadium improvements.

The application was given preliminary permission by Portsmouth City Council, but Mr Pickles needed the final say given the scale of the development.

He decided the council’s decision should not be overturned as the scheme does not have ‘wider national impact’.

But local traders, who gathered around 4,000 signatures against the effect of the store on business and the city’s road network, said it was hugely disappointing news.