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Is a superstore super news?

A huge Sainbury’s and petrol station on the edge of Herne Bay – this
would be on the ill-fated and currently languishing Altira site.

There’s no indication in the press reports as to where exactly, but I assume it would be east of the existing developments at Altira, between the A299 Thanet Way and the railway line.

Big news for a small town, and not all of it good news.

Up:

  • employment opportunities for Herne Bayers (and for anyone else who can travel along the A299)
  • their salaries would inject money into the local economy
  • Herne Bayers who usually shop in a supermarket will have one nearer to home – time saved, fewer miles travelled, reduced pollution
  • a decent supermarket can give the town a lift, making it more attractive to people and businesses looking to relocate
  • the superstore would take Altira up to the occupancy level which would oblige Kitewood to make good on its contractual obligation to build a pedestrian bridge at Blacksole
  • … do feel free to suggest more

Down:

  • having a single large employer leaves the town vulnerable to the eggs-in-one-basket problem… think Pfizer
  • Sainsbury’s would be exporting their profits to Galactic HQ, wherever that is, and converting it into shareholder dividends
  • the small petrol stations in town couldn’t hope to match Sainsbury’s prices and discounts
  • the small food retailers – butchers, bakers, greengrocers and so on – would be in serious jeopardy, and they’re having a hard enough time as it is
  • … do feel free to suggest more 

Then, of course, there is the impact on the CDA – the Central Development Area proposal to convert the William Street car park area into a small-scale clone town. This has been a shining example of greedy stupidity (on the part of both the Council and the developers) from the outset, and has centred on building a large new supermarket next to, er, a medium-sized old supermarket. The Council and the developers egged eachother on into believing this was great plan, and are now shaking their heads in bewilderment, having run into the brick wall of commercial reality.

Even before “austerity” became a freshly recycled buzzword, times were hard in retail. Any major operator thinking of investing millions in a store that they would want to last for a decade or two, would want a healthy catchment area, and they would want it to themselves. Why move in next door to one of your major competitors? And if Morrisons up-sized and moved into the new store, who would want their cast-offs?

For these (and probably a number of other good reasons), the negotiations between the Council and whoever was interested faltered and fell, leaving the whole project in suspension, and everything around it in confusion, uncertainty and blight. If Sainsbury’s open a superstore on the edge of town, that will restrict the number of operators who might be interested in the CDA.

If we broadly divide the national chains into “upmarket” and “budget”, Sainsbury’s fall into the upmarket end. Commercial reality dictates that another upmarket operator in the CDA would have to compete directly with Sainsbury’s for their customers. On the other hand, a budget operator would be serving a different “market segment”, and might be able to make a go of it. A budget supermarket will do little if anything to lift and regenerate the town centre.


Supermarket giant Sainsbury’s have drawn up plans to build a superstore on the outskirts of Herne Bay three years after talks to build a town centre store. The supermarket chain is looking to build a 95,000 square feet store – equivalent to nine football pitches – and filling station at Altira Park.

They were thought to be one of three supermarkets looking to build at the Kings Road car park as part of £35 million plans to regenerate the town centre. However, the latest plans were revealed by property developers Terrace Hill who announced the Altira Park development as part of a six-month report.

They said they had signed a pre-letting agreement with Sainsbury’s and hope to submit plans to Canterbury city council at the end of the year. They added that they wanted to complete the development midway through 2014.

Herne Bay coastal manager Chris West said he had not been aware of the development but said it was not likely to detract from plans for a supermarket in the town centre. He said: 

“It is difficult to comment until we can look at the plans and decide whether it will be a good thing for the town or not.”

However, he did cite Tesco on the edge of Whitstable as an example of an out-of-town supermarket which had not hindered the town centre.

However, one resident has voiced concerns saving the regeneration of the town centre needs to be the priority. Geoff Wimble, 64, of Sea Street, said: 

“I’m not impressed to be honest. Over the last 20 years they have hastened the degeneration of this town with the closure of recreation and caravan sites. When we were told we were getting Sainsbury’s in the town we were happy but it was shielded by Canterbury city council and Southern Water because it was a flood risk.

If that’s the case then the whole regeneration footprint is a flood risk, they are blocking out what they don’t want to deal with. It would have been good to open it in the town centre but they dropped out of the deal when they couldn’t get the Stagecoach site.”

HB Gazette 14th June 2012 – Jamie Bullen jbullen@thekmgroup.co.uk

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One comment

  1. Dick Holness

    I never thought much of the William Street CDA proposal, it looked like another brick canyon like Canterbury's awful Whitefriars which would blight the rest of the shopping area around it. The Council seems to have blown the better ideas that preceded it – remember Safeways wanted to expand years ago, and the 'market traders' stopped that, and then the Council did a great job of discouraging Sainburys from building in the High Street.Seems inevitable that we'll eventually get an out-of-town superstore and if Sainsburys build at Altira, then I'm sure we shall use it. To complement that, what would REALLY change the nature of the town centre would be for Waitrose to come there. Fat chance of that, I guess.If Sainsburys really want to come, then it's time for our Councillors to stand up and be counted. Part of the conditions MUST be a footbridge at Blacksole Bridge, and a new pavement on the south side joining the footbridge to the existing pavement opposit the Harvester. Utterly essential, before someone gets killed. Letters need to be written to the local rags about this, but not by me please, I always get mis-quoted…