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The Range plans 8m flagship Plymouth store and training academy

The retail entrepreneur behind discount homeware chain The Range has unveiled an £8 million plan to build a new flagship store and training academy on vacant land in the north of Plymouth.

Chris Dawson says the new Range Stores outlet in the Derriford area will be a “genuine trophy building”, and will sit alongside a purpose-built head office for staff training, in a development that will create hundreds of new jobs

Mr Dawson’s company CDS, the business behind his retail operations, is earmarked for a plot of council-owned land off Tavistock Road and could form the centre of a new district business hub.

Mr Dawson said: “For some time I have had a vision of a genuine trophy building somewhere in Plymouth, and that’s what this is all about. I have been asked a number of times ‘When is Plymouth going to get a store like the adverts on TV?’ Well this is it.”

The Range currently employs about 250 people at its head office in Estover, but the new headquarters will house 700 people, creating at least 450 new jobs.

The national training academy, billed as a ‘centre of excellence,’ would train staff to work for The Range and other companies, and there are also plans to expand the firm’s activities in marketing, health and safety, computer software creation, product testing, e-commerce and commercial property development.

Mr Dawson said: “It’s real jobs. That’s where it starts, that’s not where it ends. The most valuable assets we have got are the people, the quality of the staff. The glory should not go to me, it’s just my name over the door.

Mr Dawson, who grew up on a council estate in Hooe, spoke about the “emotional decision” to expand his company headquarters and stay in Plymouth.

“This is the single most exciting project I have been involved in for some time,” he said.

“The opportunity to commit my company’s long-term future and head office jobs to Plymouth has been a dream of mine for some time now and I am grateful to Plymouth City Council for sharing my vision.”

Plymouth City Council is also considering other proposals for the site, including a new food store; smaller outlets such as a chemist, florist and dry cleaners; cafes, restaurants and a pub; and more than 100 new apartment-style homes.

Once completed, the project could provide employ more than 1,000 people, including staff at The Range facility.

Council leader Tudor Evans said: “The Range is one of Britain’s most important companies. It was a really exciting opportunity for the city when Chris said he wanted to set up something on this site.

“I am hoping this will send a signal out to Plymouth businesses this is a good place to start and maintain a business. Chris’ company is living proof of that, and to welcome one of our own sons to this site is just overwhelming really. I could not be more pleased.”

The council’s cabinet has agreed to sell the majority of the site to London-based developer Petros, with the remainder being sold directly to CDS.

The proposals are still at an early stage and will be subject to public consultation and planning permission.

Source : Sam Blackledge - Western Morning News

25 April 2014
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