Questions over former college site after Tesco pulls plug on new store plans

Easington MP Grahame Morris.
Easington MP Grahame Morris.

THE impact of Tesco’s decision to pull out of a key town centre site is being assessed after plans for a new multimillion pound store fell flat.

The store was due to be built on the former East Durham College campus, in Essington Way, after the supermarket giant overcame a host of hurdles to win planning permission and the backing of residents and jobseekers.

But the company has now dropped the 400-job scheme as part of efforts to halt the firm’s financial troubles.

The shop proposals were one of 49 stores it hoped to launch and have now been ditched, with 43 existing, unprofitable, shops to shut as it looks to save cash.

The decision leaves the future of the site in limbo, as Tesco is the freeholder of the land.

The derelict building, empty since courses moved to Willerby Grove in 2009 and since become the target of arsonists and thieves, was last week sealed up with metal sheeting.

Local MP Grahame Morris has expressed disappointment with Tesco’s decision, and has said it will regret the move,

Plans to build the supermarket included a new library, as the existing service is part of the site, and would have been cleared in the demolition.

Sarah Robson, Durham County Council’s head of economic development and housing, said: “The college site forms an important part of the regeneration of Peterlee and we will continue to work with Tesco to secure a long-term future which supports and enhances the town centre.

“As part of this work, we will be looking at options for the future of the library.”

Tesco’s chief executive officer Dave Lewis has agreed the decision will be met with disappointment and was “extremely grateful for the support we’ve received for our plans”.

He has said it will work closely with the council to find the right solution for the community.

Store plans were approved in June 2011, alongside a supermarket as part of the Castle Dene Shopping Centre and Dalton Park, in Murton.

The decision to agree all three led to a legal wrangle, as Castle Dene tried to stop the Tesco and the Murton schemes, with a court rejecting both challenges.