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Sainsbury's eyeing up fourth Canterbury store at empty Chimichanga unit

Sainsbury’s wants to open its fourth Canterbury store - but this time in the heart of the city and with 24-hour opening.

The national chain, which already has a supermarket in Kingsmead and two smaller shops in St Dunstan’s and next to the Spitfire Ground, has its eyes on the former Chimichanga restaurant.

Hopeful bosses, who want the store to be open all day, every day, have submitted their official plans to Canterbury City Council.

The proposed shop frontage facing the high street (5395507)
The proposed shop frontage facing the high street (5395507)

If approved, the new Sainsbury’s Local, which will be in a grade II-listed building, would be less than 500 metres from the existing St Dunstan’s branch.

The proposed 24-hour opening times are a cause for concern for chairman of St Mildred’s Area Community Society, Reg Race.

“The store will be an attraction for people coming out of pubs and clubs to congregate,” he said.

“There will be noise and trouble. Some people using the shop might be night workers but most of those going in between 11pm and 6am would be drunk students. The council needs to look into the opening hours very carefully. An 11.30pm closure is standard and should be the latest.

“If Sainsbury’s really wants to this then they must have strong reasons why.”

Reg Race is not a fan of the proposed opening hours
Reg Race is not a fan of the proposed opening hours

On the junction of the high street and Stour Street, the building was a Post Office until 2007. Mexican chain Chimichanga moved in four years later before bowing out earlier this year.

When the Gazette asked Sainsbury’s about its plans for its existing stores, we received no response.

Mr Race added: “It’s an existing retail unit so I can see why Sainsbury’s wants to go there.

“There aren’t any real grocery outlets in the high street so I can’t see trade being taken away from independents.”

City businessman Edd Withers would welcome the new store.

“I think it’s a great thing for the city,” he said.

“We have a bustling and award winning night-time economy, which is really lacking in shops that open through the night.

Chimichanga closed earlier this year
Chimichanga closed earlier this year

“Chain stores like Sainsbury’s Local are a familiar and trusted draw to tourists and residents alike to come to the high street, and in challenging times for the high street they can really help to keep the area busy.

“It’s a great sign for Canterbury that a national like Sainsbury’s, who clearly love Canterbury, are keen to open another store here. As long as they put in place measures to keep the surrounding area clean, tidy and safe, I think it will be a great addition.”

As well as planning and premises applications from Sainsbury’s to consider, the city council will also scrutinise a licensing application for the sale of alcohol. From Wednesdays to Sundays, the firm wants to sell alcohol from 7am until 11pm. There are currently no plans to sell any alcohol on Mondays or Tuesdays.

Lisa Carlson, chief executive of the Canterbury Business Improvement Trust, believes the potential opening of Sainsbury’s is part of a “very positive story across the whole of Canterbury”.

“We don’t want vacant units in the city and it’s great that so many are being filled,” she said.

“There’s a great mix of independents and chains.”

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