Store pulled out of Porthcawl ‘due to budget pressures’

Pressure on budgets was the reason supermarket giant Morrisons pulled out of Porthcawl’s proposed regeneration project, councillors have been told.

Bridgend County Borough Council (BCBC) and Porthcawl Council have been discussing plans to go forward after the store unexpectedly withdrew from the Salt Lake Car Park development, before Christmas.

Speaking at the latest Porthcawl Town Council meeting last Thursday, Councillor Norah Clarke, said that BCBC have been told: “economic circumstances with capital budget pressures for 2014-2015 were the reasons that came back”.

Members called the delays for the regeneration “an embarrassment”.

Councillors also heard that supermarket Sainsburys, which was on the list of preferred bidders, has since contacted BCBC to show interest and that even Tesco,

which withdrew from the site in 2012, is also showing interest once again.

Councillor Ken Watts said that the way forward could be to continue to look at another potential supermarket development but also bring forward plans for a housing development at the Sandy Bay site.

He said: “A two-part approach could be the way forward. We have interested parties.

“We could also bring forward the residential development for Sandy Bay, this could be worth pursuing.”

Despite the talks, regional Conservative AMs Suzy Davies and Byron Davies have challenged Bridgend County Borough Council over the Porthcawl regeneration scheme.

The two AMs have put in a Freedom of Information request asking the council what it is doing to get the regeneration scheme off the ground now that Morrisons has pulled out.

Shadow Welsh Regeneration Minister Byron Davies said that he understood from a source close to the council that it had not yet approached second favourite bidder Sainsburys.

He added: “It all begs the question if any supermarket chain can make the scheme pay – and that’s down to the large sum of money which the council needs to get for selling this site to pay off the private leaseholders, cover the infrastructure costs and fund improvements to the harbour – which all take the total up to around the £12m mark.”

Suzy Davies said: “There is little point in duplicating the supermarkets which people can get to in Bridgend or other nearby towns.

“There remains an argument for a premium brand supermarket as part of a larger strategic plan to draw visitors to Porthcawl but I fear BCBC may have missed the boat on that.”

Meanwhile, a Morrisons spokesman confirmed a new store is to open on New Road in early 2015.

“As a business we continuously review new store opportunities against various criteria,” the spokesman said.

“Unfortunately, Porthcawl no longer fulfils our new store requirements and we took the difficult decision to end our involvement.”

Deputy leader Councillor David Sage defended the council, saying: “When Morrisons announced just before Christmas that they were withdrawing plans for establishing a store in Porthcawl, the council immediately came in for a lot of criticism and blame.”

“We had received no previous indications that Morrisons had any concerns, and had already carried out a huge amount of work aimed at delivering a new food store for Porthcawl, unlocking further funding and attracting additional businesses into the area.”

The news comes after reports that like-for-like sales at Morrisons have fallen 5.6%, in the six weeks to January 5.

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