Supermarket giant Tesco has pulled out of a huge deal to build a flagship community hub in Strood town centre.
That is according to council bosses, who have had to pledge £300,000 to restart the project despite making cuts elsewhere.
Thought to be worth about £1 million, the centre in Commercial Road would have replaced Strood’s Bryant Road library.
It was tied up in Tesco’s plan to treble the size of its Cuxton Road store and modernise a large part of Strood town centre.
But the store’s expansion is in doubt after a national announcement last year which said Tesco would focus on smaller Express stores. It is still on the cards, but likely to be redesigned and the company could have to submit its planning application all over again.
Plans were already approved to include the community hub and a temporary supermarket in the civic centre car park, near Rochester Bridge.
Speaking after last week’s budget meeting, Medway Council’s chief finance officer Mick Hayward said: “They said they are evaluating their business options, but it’s unlikely that they will put a £1m community hub back on the table.”
There will be a hub eventually, he said, but: “I don’t think it’s going to do the same thing that the £1m Tesco development would have done.”
Cabinet member for finance Cllr Alan Jarrett (Con) added: “It’s not going to happen. That was going to be a new build and we can’t afford a new build and even if we could we don’t have a site for it so what we’re doing is looking for alternative premises.
“What we’ve done tonight is say we don’t know where we are going for the future, but let’s allocate £300,000 and see how we get on.”
He denied the relationship with Tesco had soured, saying: “They’ve got stores in Medway, they’re a major provider in Medway.”
Strood South councillor Isaac Igwe (Lab) said: “The council aren’t actively negotiating things for the community. I’m very sceptical about it because I wonder what £300,000 is going to do. I want to see a plan of what the council wants to do and what the actual cost is.”
A Tesco spokesman said: “We are reviewing our plans for Strood to ensure we deliver the right store for the local community.
"It is too early in the process to speculate on what this may or may not include. As soon as we have clarity, we’ll work with Medway Council and other local stakeholders to keep the community updated.”
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