UPMARKET grocery store Waitrose has announced surprise plans for a supermarket in the heart of Bilton village, creating 150 jobs.
The UK’s sixth-biggest grocery retailer began consulting residents this week on its plans for land currently occupied by the defunct Bilton Social Club on Main Street.
The 31,700 sq ft store would extend onto unused land behind the social club site, providing parking for around 175 cars.
A Co-op and a Tesco are already trading in the village centre, but Waitrose bosses are confident their store would compete and provide much needed parking as well as acting as the regeneration of the vacant site.
The impending arrival of Waitrose has been described as fantastic by an existing retailer who said the site’s parking spaces, closed off and secured in November 2012 due to concerns over vandalism, were vital for local trade.
“That’s a real boost for the village.” said Ajit Barot, manager of Bilton Pharmacy.
“It’s something that retail here could absolutely benefit from. Most of the retailers around here, I would assume, would be delighted with that venture.”
Council leader and Bilton ward councillor Craig Humphrey expressed mixed views.
He said: “I think it’s a feather in our cap to be able to attract that calibre of investment into the area.
“And if it’s successful in Bilton, then we may see Waitrose coming to Rugby elsewhere, and that can only be good for the economy of Rugby.”
But he was more cautious about its chances of success against competing Tesco and Co-Op convenience stores in Main Street, and the nearby Sainsbury’s supermarket in Dunchurch Road.
“I think there is quite a saturation of convenience stores in and around Bilton, and right throughout Rugby. However, the market will dictate as to whether or not that’s successful.”
A resident whose garden backs on to the site branded the plans ridiculous.
Candice Williams of Winwick Place said: “Why on earth would you need a Waitrose there? There’s a supermarket at either end of the village, just paces away.
“It seems a shame to lose a community resource that actually brings people together to another shop that we don’t need. I don’t think the road system can support it. It’ll only take a few cars queuing to block off the traffic lights at the Co-Op end of the village.”
Bilton Evangelical Church’s lead pastor Paul Rogers who spearheaded a failed bid to buy the former club last year said he was disappointed to lose a community asset.
He told us: “We felt we could serve the community through obtaining the land, potentially building on it and running community activities through that.
“From that point of view it will be disappointing if it didn’t work out in that way.”
A public exhibition will be held in Bilton Methodist Church Hall on Friday, June 20 from 10am until 4pm and Saturday, June 21 from 10am until 12pm where the public can give their views before detailed plans are submitted to the council. They will also be posted online at waitrosebilton.co.uk.
What Waitrose said:
Nigel Keen, Waitrose director of development, told us: “The scheme would provide a substantial economic boost to the area, not only creating jobs, but helping to retain trade here in the years to come.”
Roland Bohn, director of Waitrose’s venture partners Discovery Properties, added: “Currently there is limited choice to the west of Rugby town centre and we believe Waitrose would provide not only Bilton but the surrounding area with a welcome option.
“The site is currently vacant and is an area that will benefit from regeneration. We believe the new store will bring people in to the area and provide much needed car parking.”
* This article was updated at 12.45 on Thursday June 12 to remove an incorrect statement regarding the size of the store.