An ambitious scheme to split a DIY store in half to make room for a supermarket has been approved, creating 300 new jobs.
Plans were passed by South Ribble Council’s planning committee this week for the B&Q in Bamber Bridge to downsize, and for Morrisons to take on half of the site.
The proposals include more parking provision and improvements to the Craven Drive and Lostock Lane junction.
The committee was assured that the 93 members of staff at B&Q are not under threat of redundancy, and that the smaller Morrisons in the town centre is set to stay.
The move will also create 300 new jobs at Morrisons.
Matt Cloak, property asset manager for B&Q, said: “Like many stores, B&Q is a product of its time, when bigger was better.
“But things have moved on, and customers’ shopping habits have changed.
“Having such a high overhead is simply no longer economically viable. Just look at the Homebase closure programme.
“This issue can only be tackled pro-actively, and we want to make this business fit for the future and secure local jobs.
“It will be one of the first in the next generation of B&Q stores.”
He added that the shop would not stock as many items as before, but that people will be able to order products for next-day delivery.
Cara Ware, planning consultant for Peacock and Smith, representing Morrisons, added: “The largest impact this will have is on the nearby Sainsbury’s and ASDA stores. The existing Morrisons in Bamber Bridge centre will continue to trade; that has a different function [to the proposed store] and I can confirm that there are no plans to close that.”
But some people spoke out about how the scheme will affect the smaller shops in the area, and the staff at Sainsbury’s.
Bamber Bridge resident Tom Nuttall said: “We now have a larger Sainsbury’s and more supermarkets in the area, making it more important than ever to protect Bamber Bridge as a shopping district.”
Coun Phil Smith, the council’s cabinet member for regeneration, added: “I’m not speaking for or against this, but I do have concerns about Bamber Bridge centre.
“As a regeneration team, we look at town centres and work on a scheme in Bamber Bridge is due to start shortly.
“The last thing we want is out-of-town shopping, and we’ve heard tonight that the smaller Morrisons intends to stay, which is good news, although I don’t think there are any guarantees with that.
“Also, we expect that 20 per cent of Sainsbury’s turnover will go to the new Morrisons, and that is a huge amount for any company.
“Maybe for every job created at Morrisons, one will be lost at Sainsbury’s.”
Sitting on the planning committee, Coun Jim Marsh said: “This is a business decision - I doubt B&Q is happy about downsizing, but it is needed for its survival. And people don’t want to see it go.”
Coun Caroline Moon added: “In all my years on this planning committee, this is the only application where people have been ringing me at home to support the plans.”
The scheme was unanimously voted through.