Sainsbury's pulls out of Tonbridge regeneration scheme

Tonbridge town centre Image copyright Malc McDonald
Image caption Tonbridge council said Sainsbury's decision to pull out was very disappointing

A £70m redevelopment scheme that would have transformed a town centre in Kent has been scrapped after the withdrawal of a supermarket chain.

The plan for Tonbridge would have seen a new flagship Sainsbury's store, a leisure centre, a multi-screen cinema, restaurants and a petrol station.

Sainsbury's cited changing shopping habits and more focus on smaller convenience stores for its decision.

Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council said it was very disappointing.

Council leader Nicholas Heslop said the application had been "on the verge of going to planning".

'Out-of-date store'

"It came as a complete surprise, particularly given the great progress that we'd seen over recent months," he said.

"We'd been working extremely hard with Sainsbury's on these plans."

Last October, hundreds of people attended an exhibition outlining the regeneration proposals for the Botany area of the town, on land currently occupied by Sainsbury's.

The council said the scheme had been generally well-received by residents.

Mr Heslop added the decision was not a reflection on Tonbridge.

"I think it follows a review of Sainsbury's regional investment strategy... [but] it's leaving the town with a very out-of-date store."

In a statement, Sainsbury's portfolio development manager, Ross Castle, said the scheme was no longer financially viable following a review of changing shopping patterns, which included convenience stores and online shopping.

"We do, however, remain committed to our [existing] Tonbridge store and we will continually look at ways of improving our offer to customers," he said.

Mr Heslop said he remained positive about the future for the town, and the council had already been approached by other commercially-interested parties looking to invest in it.

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