Supermarket giant Morrisons has pulled out of plans to open a new store in Hemel Hempstead’s Marlowes and buy out the West Herts College and Civic Centre sites, it was revealed on a social networking site last night.
The grocery chain’s board met on Wednesday and decided not to go ahead with the build earmarked for the town’s new ‘Link’ development, also featuring a new West Herts College campus and the demolition of the Civic Centre.
Dacorum Borough Council failed to respond to repeated queries from this website regarding the results of the meeting before council leader Andrew Williams announced the news on popular community Facebook page Hemel Hempstead Remembered yesterday evening.
Mr Williams posted: “Morrisons board met yesterday and decided that the investment was not viable unless they could build a petrol station which the Environment Agency had objected to, partly because of the river but mainly due to the fact that drinking water for Hemel is drawn from below the site.
“Dacorum Borough Council will still proceed with the other elements of the scheme but will now stay in the current Civic Centre while the public service quarter is built. We will also work with the College to look at alternative options for our joint site.”
Morrisons’ move to the town would have brought with it an estimated 350 permanent jobs, with around £25 million expected to be invested into the site as part of wider regeneration plans for Dacorum.
Mr Williams has since said: “This is a huge disappointment for the town and will impact on the speed of regeneration but will not stop us in our tracks. The regeneration of Market Square, the new public service quarter and new homes will continue as part of our Hemel Evolution town centre regeneration plans, and we will continue to support West Herts College in their plans for new modern facilities in Hemel Hempstead.”
College principal Gill Worgan confirmed the further education institution remains fully committed to redeveloping its Dacorum campus.
She said: “While this set back is extremely disappointing, it does not prevent us from moving forward with an alternative project. As a result we will not be moving out of the Dacorum campus and will continue to deliver existing provision on the site while new plans are implemented.”
Ms Worgan also suggested that savings made as a result of not vacating to temporary accommodation will be used to improve the condition of the current estate.
Morrisons, which has also advertised a series of jobs in a smaller M Local store expected to be built in the town, described the planned superstore’s petrol station as a “fundamental” part of the scheme.
Development executive Richard Haynes said: “Morrisons was committed to pursuing a new store opportunity at The Link site in partnership with West Herts College and Dacorum Borough Council.
“However, new regulations have caused a series of design and environmental issues and we cannot offer the proposed petrol station which is a fundamental part of the scheme.
“As a result of the change in policy we have taken the difficult decision to end our involvement at this time. Morrisons would like express our thanks to West Herts College and Dacorum Borough Council for their continued efforts during this period and trust that we can work together in the near future.”
Hemel Hempstead MP Mike Penning said: “I am extremely disappointed that Morrisons have decided not to go ahead with a new store on the Civic Centre/West Herts College site.
“I am particularly disappointed that the Environment Agency has been unable to accept the safeguards offered or find any solution to the problem of having a petrol station in close proximity to the River Gade.
“This is particularly disappointing considering there are other petrol stations just as close to local rivers.
“This may be a set-back, but it is not an insurmountable one, and I know the town will pick itself up and move on. I will help Dacorum Borough Council in any way I can with new proposals to redevelop this key site in the centre of the town.”