DISCOUNT supermarket giant Aldi is set to move into part of Tamworth’s former John Lewis branch after plans to divide the store into two units were approved by councillors.
A new Costa Coffee shop with drive through facility will also be built at the Ventura Park site as part of its reuse.
The closure of Tamworth’s John Lewis store was announced last year, alongside a number of other branches across the country.
Members of Tamworth Borough Council’s planning committee welcomed the site’s reuse as they passed the plans on Tuesday (March 30).
Sean McGrath, who spoke in support of the application on behalf of the retail park owners, said work had been taking place to secure new tenants for the former John Lewis store since the announcement of its closure.
He added: “Unfortunately nobody wants to take the whole of that unit – it is a very big unit – but Aldi do want to take half the unit. We are a long way down the track in getting another operator to take the other half of the unit.
“This application will not only ensure that the former John Lewis unit is brought back quickly into beneficial use, showing that Tamworth is still open for business and investment, but it will also create approximately 140 jobs for local residents.
“The coronavirus has had a deep impact on all our lives and continues to change the way we live, work and shop. The past 12 months have been very challenging for retailers and many well-known brands have gone to the wall.
“The impact on John Lewis is well-documented and for this reason, and to reflect changing habits, John Lewis will not open many of its stores after lockdown.
“I think it is a testament to the strength of Tamworth as a retail destination that there are still operators keen to invest in the town despite the economic challenges facing everyone.”
Councillors voted unanimously in favour of the plans at Tuesday’s meeting.
Councillor Patrick Standen said: “I can understand comments regarding impact on the town centre having to be taken into account. However in this situation I feel they don’t really apply.
“There are two large food retailers – namely Sainsbury’s and Asda – within a short distance. The drive-thru coffee shop facility would appear to be in a situation to gain passing custom along the A5 bypass as well as local trade.
“Following the loss of John Lewis to the town surely it’s better for this location to be put into use and provide employment to Tamworth people, pay business rates and help to meet the needs of our town?”
Councillor Richard Kingstone said: “I think this is an amazing development and an amazing opportunity for what is an unused and massive site in the middle of Ventura Park. We need to be celebrating the businesses that are keen to be taking this over at this particular time.”
Councillor John Chesworth said: “It’s an already established retail park. I think it’s brilliant that there is a retailer willing to invest in the site.
“I’ve heard many comments of ‘not another Costa, not another Aldi’, but they want to go there because they are successful in the town and they want to build on that. It will provide jobs and it will provide outlets that people want to use.”