THE supermarket giant at the heart of controversial town centre redevelopment plans has pulled out at the 11th hour.
Sainsbury’s will no longer be part of the Duke of Northumberland’s £30m plans for Prudhoe.
Yesterday the Duke’s Northumberland Estates office confirmed Sainsbury’s had withdrawn and said it was now speaking to a number of possible replacements.
The Duke’s head of planning, Colin Barnes, insisted they were confident another supermarket would be found to fill the gap, although that will now not be until after the new year.
Mr Barnes said the supermarket was essential to the Prudhoe plans and Sainsbury’s decision had been taken due to difficult market conditions.
Sainsbury’s chief executive, Justin King, said: “I can confirm that Sainsbury’s will not be the operator of the food store within the Northumberland Estates scheme.
“While we are always looking for opportunities for new supermarkets and convenience stores, we have no plans for Prudhoe at present.”
Campaigners who have fought the redevelopment plans for five years greeted the news with cautious optimism – adding Sainsbury’s departure could yet scupper the unpopular scheme.
John Robson, of the Take Pride in Prudhoe action group, said: “I’m hoping that’s the case. This could be a potentially fatal blow, as a supermarket is integral to the whole redevelopment.
“Sainsbury’s were to be the centrepiece, the flagship at the centre of the project, although I still fear there could be someone else to fill the gap.