Waitrose is the frontrunner to open a new supermarket in Leamington town centre.
The upmarket retailer wants to build a store on the site of Leamington fire station, if authorities decide to move it to a new location.
Yesterday (Thursday) members of Warwickshire County Council were holding a cabinet meeting to discuss the future of the Dale Street site as part of its property rationalisation programme.
Nigel Keen, director of development for Waitrose, part of the John Lewis Group, told the Courier: “We have wanted to open in Leamington for a very long time so when the council invited interested parties to share their ideas, we welcomed the opportunity to bring forward a proposal.”
Mr Keen says the store would create up to 180 new jobs.
Other supermarkets have also expressed an interest in the prime Dale Street site at the juntion with Warwick Street. But Waitrose is so keen they are inviting local people to go and and discuss their proposals at the Royal Priors shopping centre next Friday and Saturday.
If the indications are good an outline planning application could be submitted as early as next month.
No firm decision has yet been made about any new base for the fire station. It is possible a smaller edge-of-town location could be found for the four Leamington appliances and their crews.
Chief fire officer Graham Smith said: “Warwickshire County Council is in the early stages of considering development opportunities for its Leamington fire station site.
“To assist in its considerations, the council is currently engaging the market via a soft market testing exercise. Through this process we have received enquiries from a number of interested parties.”
The planned new store will cost £20 million. It will just sell food and Waitrose says it will be roughly the same size as its Kenilworth branch.
In Kenilworth the opening of Waitrose three years ago is credited with helping increase the number of town centre shoppers - or ‘footfall’ - by 23 per cent.
Kenilworth town centre manager Dave Butler said: “Waitrose has had a significant effect, not least with the shops that have sprung up around it.”
Coventry builder Peter Deeley, of Deeley Properties, has already held talks with Waitrose and prepared preliminary plans which can be viewed at the Royal Priors between 10am and 4pm on Friday and 10am and 2pm on Saturday.
n Morrisons supermarket plans for the old Ford Foundry site at Old Warwick Road, which include 120-bedroomed hotel, are likely to go before Warwick District Council planners on June 14.