Published: 00:01, 31 January 2018
MP Sir Roger Gale has urged Sainsbury’s to build a shopping mall hosting big-name brands on the site of its empty Broomfield superstore in Herne Bay.
The veteran Tory has written to the supermarket giant, suggesting the vacant building could be turned into a smaller Sainsbury’s Local supported by popular shops like Next.
But the idea has riled independent traders who claim a retail park will drive business away from the town centre.
Sir Roger said: “That site can’t be allowed to be left derelict, so I’ve suggested to them they consider a convenience store and build a shopping mall there.
“It would be possible to have a Sainsbury’s Local and some other brand stores, like Next, that don’t have a presence on the coast, without seeking to create competition with the people who are already in Herne Bay.”
The shell of a supermarket at the Altira Business Park has been left empty since 2016, when Sainsbury’s stalled on its plans.
Sir Roger believes a shopping mall there would allow the town to attract more tourists and end the need for residents to travel to Canterbury to shop.
But Tony Symons, the chairman of Our Herne Bay Retailers’ Group and owner of Rogers Menswear in William Street, argues it would drive business away from the centre of the town.
“Without a high street and a thriving trading community, you haven’t got a town,” he said.
“There’s enough choice around without having an outlet centre at Altira Business Park.”
Mr Symons added he would not be opposed to more chains being established in the centre of Herne Bay because it would benefit nearby independent retailers.
Sainsbury’s has yet to reveal its plans for the site, but Sir Roger gave credence to speculation it may be waiting for the completion of housing developments in Herne Bay before opening.
He said: “They might be saying, ‘Hang on a minute, there’ll be new housing in the area and maybe that’ll provide us with sufficient footfall to open it up as a big supermarket’.
"What I don’t want is it sitting empty for the next five years.”
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