JOBS at a city centre superstore could be put at risk if a £60m scheme to redevelop the heart of Portsmouth goes ahead.
Morrisons has lashed out at Portsmouth City Council over its plan to modify the A3 southbound between Princess Royal Road and Unicorn Road.
Under the proposals, the revamp would see developers demolish Pickfords Vanguard Ltd and part of the Morrisons shop at the Victory Retail Park.
It’s a move the council claims will foster economic prosperity in the area as part of the City Centre North overhaul, improving traffic flow and bringing with it the prospect of creating lucrative new development sites, worth £500m.
But the national supermarket chain has hit back, branding the plan ‘unacceptable’ and ‘severely damaging’, claiming it would lower trade and could lead to job cuts.
An objection letter from their consultants, Peacock and Smith, stated: ‘The provision of a modified store being proposed by the council is impractical and unacceptable, because it would not fulfil Morrisons’ operational and logistical requirements.
‘The Morrisons store plays an important role in the economic and social life of the community, because the majority of staff live in the local area. The loss of jobs (full-time and part-time) as a result of the proposed development would be severely damaging.’
However, councillors have debunked the store’s claims, referring to Morrisons’ contract with them.
Tory council boss, Councillor Donna Jones, said: ‘Morrisons have to work with the council as part of their contract, if we need to make the store smaller then they will have to facilitate that. The council will end up buying them out.
‘We envisaged the objection coming in. This is just standard practice.’
Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, leader of the Lib Dems, agreed. ‘When Morrisons signed the contract to move into that store they knew they might have to adapt in this way,’ he said.
‘They moved in knowing this might happen.’
The store challenged these views, citing that its agreement in 2012 didn’t account for the amount of floor and car park space that would be lost.
The letter from Peacock and Smith said: ‘The proposed development steps outside the provisions of the option agreement and the terms.
‘It would result in a significant loss of floorspace and modification of the Morrisons store, as well as the loss of approximately 50 car parking bays on the site.’
It asked that more discussions take place before anything is decided.
Other objections were also raised by the Portsmouth Cycle Forum which feared for cyclists’ safety.
Ian Saunders, the group’s chairman, said: ‘There will be some very minor width improvements but these will not occur where they are desperately needed near the blind bends. Worse, a crossing point will be added, creating hazards with lamp columns and the potential for collision with stationary pedestrians and cyclists as they wait to cross.’
Cllr Jones said: ‘There will be money spent improving the cycle lanes. We want to encourage more people to cycle. But really people need to wait and see what the final decision is.’
Cllr Vernon-Jackson has since questioned whether splashing out £60m on the development was worth it.
‘If it’s going to open up a large area for development then it will be,’ he said. ‘But I haven’t actually seen anything concrete for real plans for this.’
Defending the plan. Cllr Jones said it was an ‘absolutely key’ part of the city’s regeneration plan.
She criticised the Lib Dems for not delivering it when they were in power, insisting the new bid will boost the city.
‘We will have investors queuing up to get involved which is important when it could mean bringing in £500m,’ she said.
The application is currently awaiting a decision.