Waitrose has recently reached an important stage in their plans for a new store in Oundle, which includes the agreement to purchase the chosen site in East Road from the previous owners, Linden Homes. Having submitted a formal planning application to the East Northamptonshire District Council, the application was passed unanimously at a November meeting by the planning authority in Thrapston.
This means that the store is now due to open by Christmas 2013. Waitrose has pledged “to work with the Town Council and independent traders to integrate the new store into the community”.
During the consultation stages, Waitrose was keen to address local concerns, inviting residents to ask questions and provide their views on the proposal. They also responded in detail to queries from Oundle Town Council, after their team made a presentation in the summer.
Waitrose outlined what they felt are the plan’s benefits to Oundle. For example, they will use a local recruiting scheme to create 120 jobs for those living in the area, provide a town-centre shoppers’ car park and providing a travel plan for staff to promote a move away from single occupancy car use. There is also scope to locate a new bus stop between Blackpot Lane and Kings Road.
Waitrose is enthusiastic about the store’s design, which they say aims to reflect the local context. The accepted design is of a simple modern building with high quality detailing that will enhance the views and “provide a high quality streetscape”. The inclusion of masonry materials will relate the store to existing buildings in Oundle. To enhance sustainability, they intend to use the stone from two existing buildings on the site to build boundary walls along East Road.
An element of the store’s plans which remains controversial with both residents and traders is the inclusion of a customer café. However the shop will also bring new retail offers to Oundle not found elsewhere in town, such as fish and patisserie counters.
The issue of speeding hopes to be addressed with the introduction of traffic-calming schemes, such as traffic islands, a mini-roundabout, a speed activated sign, or gateway feature, and speed cushions around the East Road and Station Road areas.
Finally, Waitrose are keen to create a safe and easy route for pedestrians between the market place and Waitrose, which will hopefully be fulfilled with the introduction of a pedestrian island on North Street. The plans have been comprehensively reviewed through road safety and non-motorised user audits.
Waitrose will also be encouraging pedestrians to walk along East Road to get to and from the town centre, as they believe it is a quieter route. They intend to improve signage for pedestrians between the town centre and the site. The signage scheme will identify both routes, with walking times and distances and encourage pedestrians to walk via East Road in preference to North Street.