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John Lewis plans ‘at home’ store for Preston

John Lewis is finalising a deal to open a store in Preston after all, the Lancashire Evening Post can reveal today.

The retailer, which confirmed it had pulled out of the £700m Tithebarn revamp less than a fortnight ago, has opted for an out-of-town store at the Deepdale Retail Park.

A John Lewis At Home shop is due to move into a large building alongside the Marks and Spencer store, subject to planning permission, and the Evening Post understands 180 jobs will be created.

Today, the news received a mixed reaction from people across the city.

Preston MP Mark Hendrick said: “The fact they’re doing that is very small consolation.

“It’s not about John Lewis. The key is redeveloping the city centre, not just bringing one store, but giving a whole range of choices that make Preston a much more attractive place to do shopping.”

Deepdale councillor Terry Cartwright said it was a “bit underhand” after pulling out of the city centre but described it as a “major coup” for the area.

He said: “Deepdale’s the new town centre, everything’s coming to Deepdale.

“It’s a bit of a twist in a way but business is business. It’s all about business and what businesses can afford these days.

“I don’t know whether the infrastructure could cope. That’s the only down-side to me.”

Retail park bosses at the Deepdale Co-ownership Trust submitted a planning application for two large units last week on the site of the former Booker cash-and-carry site.

It would see a building bigger than Preston North End’s pitch built and split into two.

The plans show one unit taking up two-thirds of the building with the second unit taking up the remainder of the site.

The Evening Post understands work could start in the next few months, if planning permission is approved.

Council leader Peter Rankin said he was unable to confirm or deny any details but said: “Any investment in Preston would be fantastic.”

Conservative group leader Ken Hudson said: “This is absolutely wonderful news.

“John Lewis have absolutely done their homework, found that Preston was a place to do business and unfortunately, they’ve decided that it’s not in the city centre.

“In order to keep city centres vibrant, we need some of those large stores to not be located out of town but in the heart of the retail quarter.

“I don’t think it’ll necessarily have a negative effect because there are a number of developers who are now knocking on the door.”

Geoff Driver, the leader of Lancashire County Council, said: “It is good news for Preston that a company like John Lewis sees it as being worth its while opening a store in Preston.

“We are disappointed they pulled out of the proposed location in Tithebarn but this will lessen the blow somewhat.

“A store like John Lewis is always an attraction and that is why stores like John Lewis are known as anchor stores.”

The first John Lewis At Home store opened in Poole, Dorset, in 2009, and a further five have followed in Chester, Croydon, Swindon, Tamworth and Tunbridge Wells.

A spokesman for John Lewis said: “John Lewis is often linked to new retail led developments, however, we don’t comment on market speculation.”

A spokesman for Preston Council said: “We are not able to confirm or comment on speculation.”

Meanwhile, Ben Wallace, MP for Wyre and Preston North, said he was due to meet with John Lewis chairman Charlie Mayfield next week to discuss a city centre base.

He said: “The key is to get, for the Tithebarn development, an anchor brand in the centre of Preston.

“If John Lewis don’t do it, we’ll have to look for a new anchor.

“Having John Lewis in the city is a good thing but I think what we want is a fully-fledged John Lewis.”

Source : Lancashire Evening Post

16 November 2011
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