Sainsbury's supermarket tops wishlist for Beverley's new Grovehill retail park
DEVELOPERS picked to spearhead a major new retail park in Beverley have revealed Sainsbury's tops their wishlist for the anchor store.
The food giant, which had an agreement with a rival bidder, says it "remains keen to have a main food store in Beverley".
But worried traders fear another major food store and shopping park will hit town centre trade.
Lancashire-based Maple Grove Developments is East Riding Council's preferred bidder to acquire the council's 15-acre site on the town's Grovehill industrial estate.
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Maple Grove's managing director Chris Evenson confirmed talks are now planned with Sainsbury's.
Mr Evenson said: "We are aware of Sainsbury's strong interest in the town and in the site.
"We have already made contact with their representatives and are trying to set up a meeting with them soon to discuss how we can work together.
"They are top of our list."
A spokesman for Sainsbury's confirmed the store had an agreement with a rival bidder, Litton Properties, but will now review its options.
The spokesman said: "Sainsbury's remains keen to have a main food store in Beverley.
"However, as the council has decided to sell its site to a developer other than Litton Properties, with whom we have an agreement, we must now review our options."
A hotel, restaurants, non-food shops and a filling station could also be developed at the Grovehill site, where hundreds of jobs would be created in a scheme costing up to £40m.
Mr Evenson said: "We have been approached by a hotel operator which has confirmed it is interested.
"We may well look at that.
"We are hoping there will be a lot of interest in the site not withstanding the overall state of the retail market."
Proposals for the site will be subject to planning approval by East Riding Council.
Mr Evenson said: "While land ownership and planning are two completely different things for the local authority, you would like to think they would not agree to sell it for food retail unless they had some confidence they could tick all the planning boxes. They must have been satisfied."
After marketing the site earlier this year, the council deferred a decision on the sale until a detailed assessment was carried out on the likely impact of development on businesses in the town centre.
The council was advised by planning consultants England and Lyle there would be no risk to the vitality and viability of the town centre.
But leading town trader David Bird warned the town, where a £120m retail and leisure development is already planned in Flemingate, does not need another shopping park.
He said: "The Chamber of Trade has campaigned for a long time for the Grovehill site to be developed as a business park.
"Another retail park, with a supermarket as the anchor tenant, is a policy the rest of the country has followed at its peril.
"We need a much more balanced economy than just retail, retail, retail."
Mr Bird said the Grovehill site badly needs redeveloping but not with a supermarket and shops.
He said: "There's no doubt in my mind a supermarket would warrant the largest bid for that site and that is exactly what the council has gone for.
"Are we going to eat our way out of recession?"
In August, plans for a £120m retail and leisure development in Flemingate were effectively given the go-ahead after the Government decided against calling in the application for a review.
Covering a 16-acre site, the Flemingate scheme will feature a cinema, a hotel and a range of shops, including a Debenhams store, as well as providing a new £14m campus for East Riding College.