Dartford shopkeepers in 'bombed out Beirut' unconvinced by council's Tesco ultimatum (From News Shopper)
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Dartford shopkeepers in 'bombed out Beirut' unconvinced by council's Tesco ultimatum
FED-UP shopkeepers in a rundown part of Dartford town centre branded "bombed out Beirut" are bracing themselves for more uncertainty.
Supermarket giant Tesco insists it is committed to building a superstore with additional shops and homes along dilapidated Lowfield Street.
The reassurance comes after Dartford Council told told it to "get building or get out" as the saga enters its 10th year.
But Ray Richardson, who runs Richardsons and Sons butchers, the oldest privately owned shop in the town, said: "Tesco will do whatever they want, they won't take a blind bit of notice from that.
"As far as they are concerned they've got the land and it's not been given to Waitrose or Sainsbury's."
The popular butchers first opened in 1908 and is one of only a handful shops which has not been bought out by Tesco.
He accused the council of "trying to kill our town".
"They got into bed with Tesco and wanted to be a developer but the marriage appears to have broken up," he said.
Plans have already been approved but the multi-national supermarket chain is revising its proposal due to a change in shoppers' habits and an increasing reliance on internet shopping.
Ray Hussein, who has been running Dartford Dry Cleaners with his son Osman for nearly 30 years, says he has watched Lowfield Street change from a bustling area to a "bombed out Beirut".
He told News Shopper: "I don’t blame Tesco. That’s what they do, they buy land and hold it.
"I blame Dartford Council for letting them get away with it.
"Every single one of my customers is disgusted by the way we have been treated, it’s not on."
The pair sold their shop to Tesco and opened up across the road seven years ago amid fears the council would enforce a compulsory purchase order on the site.
Osman, 43, said: "It seemed like a brilliant idea at the time to regenerate the area. Initially we were told it would be finished within four years - it’s now nine years and counting.
"We feel let down by Tesco and the council. "They’ve killed this part of town really. Cllr Jeremy Kite admitted the council’s ultimatum to "get building or get out" was a gamble.
He said: "It was a high risk. When you start threatening companies like Tesco, they’re a big old business, but it can’t go on.
"The people of Dartford expect to see more progress.
"Tesco say they are very, very committed to Dartford and want to press on and apologise for the delay.
"Traders don’t like trading in an area which looks like a bomb has hit it."
What Tesco say
“We have confirmed to Dartford Council that, having reviewed our plans, we are now ready to proceed with a revised scheme for the redevelopment of Lowfield Street.
"We have always said that we are committed to Dartford but we have had to look again at our proposals to reflect the local and regional economy and the changing shopping habits of our potential customers.
"We regret that this has caused a delay to the redevelopment but we are now pleased to announce that we intend to progress with plans to build a new Tesco superstore with 400 parking spaces, 99 residential units and 20,000 sq ft of additional non-food retail space.”