Opening date confirmed for new Sainsbury's flagship store in Southport

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After ten years in the planning, a judicial review and a ruling at the High Court, Sainsbury’s new flagship store in Southport is set to finally open next week.

The long-anticipated new supermarket will open on Wednesday (February 28) in Meols Cop Retail Park with recently installed new signage acting as the finishing touch following a decade-long process.

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In 2017, Sainsbury’s received planning permission to demolish the former Homebase site at Meols Cop Retail Park and build a 60,000 sq ft store and petrol station. When the application was first proposed it proved to be highly contentious and was only approved following a five-day public inquiry, called for by former Southport MP and now local councillor John Pugh in 2015. The initial inquiry and the four years spent revising the plans meant countless hours of work for council officers leading to a final cost of £180k of local taxpayers’ money.

Despite the plans being approved, no date was set for the beginning of the works and in October 2018, Sainsbury’s formally submitted new plans for a smaller 50,000 sq ft store at the same site. A planning condition imposed on the new development is that the Lord Street store must remain open for a minimum of five years from the date the new Meols Cop store opens.

After a meeting in August 2021, Sefton Council ‘s planning committee agreed to submit the plans to the Secretary of State for approval and eventually won a High Court ruling which vindicated their decision to approve the plans. A spokesperson for Sefton Council said at the time: “This decision to find in favour of the council’s initial judgement is warmly welcomed and reiterates the extensive discussions, analysis and due diligence conducted by Sefton’s planning team throughout this process. Work to construct the Meols Cop Store can now begin.”

The huge new store is 44,710 sq. ft and will feature Sainsbury’s usual fresh food goods, a bakery, fruit and vegetables, cupboard staples and food-to-go. It will also feature the brand’s Tu clothing range and include a new Argos store and a Costa Coffee.

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A Smart Charge Hub with 8 ultra-rapid EV charging bays have been made available and a Changing Places Toilet to help ensure the store is accessible for all customers. Sainsbury’s new outlet will make it one of the largest retail options in Southport and has created 150 new jobs for people in the town.

Cllr Daren Veidman, Sefton Council’s Cabinet Member for Planning said: “To say this development has been a challenge would be an understatement and a disservice to our incredibly hard working Planning officers. When factoring in pre-application guidance this has been a decade long process for our communities, the applicant and ourselves.

“With any planning application, regardless of size, Sefton’s Planning service is there to act as an impartial and fair body that weighs up both the positive and negative impacts of any development to ensure the borough is growing and our communities are well looked after. After careful consideration and investigations we recommended the initial application for the Meols Cop site be approved.”

However, opposition Liberal Democrat councillor, John Pugh said: “I’m sure that the store will be lovely and a great success selling a huge range of things beside food.

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“The loser though is Southport town centre and the poor people of Norwood Road afflicted by increased traffic and in fact anyone who wants to negotiate the Kew Roundabout.

Cllr Pugh added: “Sefton Council supported the ‘out of town’ option. I didn’t, but we’ll soon find out whether my fears were grounded.”

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