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Sainsbury's pulls out of plans in Tonbridge for new cinema, retail units and new store saying they are no longer 'financially viable'

By Chris Price

Supermarket giant Sainsbury’s has pulled out of £70m plans to regenerate the centre of Tonbridge.

The proposals to build a cinema, retail units and a replacement store have been scrapped after the company said the scheme is no longer “financially viable”.

It comes a day after it announced it was pulling out of plans for a new store in Canterbury.

The proposed cinema for Tonbridge town centre

It was set to renovate land currently occupied by a Sainsbury’s, Beales and the Angel Centre.

Tonbridge and Malling council has expressed its anger at the decision and described the move as “misguided”.

The supermarket had consulted on the plans with at a two day exhibition in Tonbridge Castle last autumn, with the public largely welcoming of the scheme.

Sainsbury’s portfolio development manager Ross Castle said: “We are very disappointed that we cannot bring this scheme forward.

“We regularly review our schemes in terms of viability and in the context of changing shopping patterns, such as an increasing focus on smaller convenience stores and online shopping.

“I have made it clear when expressing my disappointment to the company that their decision is misguided..." - Tonbridge and Malling council leader Nicolas Heslop

“Unfortunately, this scheme is no longer financially viable following such a review.

“We are conscious that the decision will be very disappointing to a lot of people in Tonbridge and it is not one that we have taken lightly.

“It is despite the best efforts of all involved, particularly the borough council, whom we would like to thank for their support and determination in bringing forward regeneration of the town centre.

“We would also like to thank the local community and, in particular, the many people who showed an interest in our proposals during and after public consultation last year.

“We do, however, remain committed to our Tonbridge store and we will continually look at ways of improving our offer to customers.”

The decision also means a proposed community centre at Bradford Street, funded from the proceeds of the development, will be unable to go ahead.

The new centre was set to house a three-court, multi-purpose sports hall, gym and fitness studio.

The proposed Bradford Street Leisure Centre in Tonbridge

Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council leader Nicolas Heslop said: “I am extremely disappointed and angered by this news which has come as a surprise, particularly given the great progress that has been made over recent months.

“The council has worked extremely hard with Sainsbury’s on these plans, which would deliver major regeneration in the town centre.

“I have escalated matters to the highest level at Sainsbury’s in order to discuss their decision.

“I have made it clear when expressing my disappointment to the company that their decision is misguided.

“It has taken a short term view and failed to consider the poor quality retail environment that the Tonbridge store currently offers its very loyal customers, or the wider economic activity that would be generated by the high street retailers that were expressing an interest in the town.

Sainsbury's is pulling out of two projects in Kent

"Practically, the decision leaves us with a tired and unattractive building.

“I remain committed to delivering regeneration and economic development in Tonbridge as a key priority.

“It is a fantastic town with great potential and there are other opportunities to improve the town centre which we will explore with renewed enthusiasm.

"In these days of economic uncertainty we have to be prepared to move on in the best interests of the town.

“As a council we will do everything that we can to ensure Tonbridge is vibrant and successful and we will keep the local community engaged as we move forward.”

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