A STATEMENT by Tesco’s boss heralding the “end of new big stores” has led to speculation about the future of a Bridgwater superstore.

Plans for a massive Tesco Extra on Bridgwater’s Northgate site, which was set to open this summer, were given the thumbs-up by Sedgemoor planners more than a year ago.

The Mercury was told by Sedgemoor District Council in February that the terms of a legal agreement called a Section 106, which covers community contributions from developers, were “still being negotiated” and Tesco promised to keep the community updated.

But last week Tesco chief executive Philip Clarke told the BBC he is moving the company’s focus away from huge stores and on to smaller shops.

He said Tesco would open 12 big stores in the coming year, but no more of the huge Tesco Extras.

He said: “It is the end of new big stores.”

Westover councillor Brian Smedley, who campaigned against the store, told the Mercury: “The long, unexplained delay in progressing the Bridgwater development is now beginning to make sense.

“We’ve been pressing the council’s leadership for an update and any comment on the rumours of this cancellation for some time, but have been met by a wall of silence.

“The latest national announcement from Tesco appears to be the final nail in the coffin for this development.”

Cllr Smedley has suggested that Sedgemoor starts “urgently working up a plan B”.

Cllr Ian Tucker, who is also opposed to the project, said: “It’s a real mystery, that one.

“I keep going into planning and asking, and there just seems to be nothing happening.

“Northgate is one of the best parts of Bridgwater – what would be better there is something like an ice skating rink.”

Sedgemoor District Council’s corporate director, Doug Bamsey, told the Mercury: “The draft 106 agreement has been sent off, and as with any legal agreement it can go through various changes.”

When asked whether the council had received any progress updates from Tesco, Mr Bamsey replied: “We’ve had no updates recently.”

A Tesco spokeswoman said: “We are continuing to work with the council. The planning process takes time, but we will continue to keep the community updated on progress.”

She added that Tesco is hoping to meet the council in the coming weeks and offer an update at the beginning of June.

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