LONG-AWAITED plans for a major extension of the Morrisons supermarket on the northern outskirts of Berwick have been welcomed by town councillors.
The supermarket was granted outline planning permission in 2008 after an appeal and has now lodged a reserved matters application to increase its size by 29 per cent.
It would create more sales space, an extra 155 parking spaces, a larger warehouse, new staff facilities, an extended customer cafe and, perhaps most controversially, a new filling station on a greenfield site across the road.
Councillor John Robertson, speaking at a meeting of Berwick Town Council’s planning committee, said: “Morrisons are over-trading at the moment and it shows at peak times when you are trying to walk around it.
“If they are going to widen the aisles and create more parking to make it a better shopping experience then it should be welcomed.”
Councillor Peter Herdman, committee chairman, added: “We’ve been waiting for this application for a long time and, if approved, will make the store about one-third bigger than it is at the moment.
“However, by moving the petrol station and car wash to the other side of the road there will be provision for more car parking spaces as well as disabled and parents and child parking to cater for the increased capacity.”
The proposal is to increase the gross floorspace from 4,446 square metres to 6,289 square metres and the total sales area from 1,857 square metres to 3,245 square metres. It would also result in an increase in parking spaces from 317 to 472.
The store currently provides employment for 268 people but is envisaged the expansion would create up to 30 additional jobs.
A spokesman for Morrisons said: “As with many Safeway stores which were converted to Morrisons, the store is smaller than a typical purpose-built Morrisons outlet and a number of compromises have been made to accommodate as much of the Morrisons trading format as possible.
“However, the current arrangement at Berwick is still very much a compromise and the store needs to be larger to provide the qualitative improvements and choice to customer service that would flow from a typically larger Morrisons store.
“The existing store experiences in-store congestion at peak shopping times and the current sales space is insufficent for Morrisons to sell a full range of goods that can be found in other large Morrisons stores and the new Tesco store at Ord Drive. There are also insufficient parking spaces at peak times.”
The company wants to extend the eastern elevation to accommodate a new and expanded cafe, first floor staff facilities and additional sales floorspace at the existing cafe.
There would also be an extension to the southern elevation to provide additional sales space and food preparation areas, while a small extension to the entrance lobby is also planned.
An extension to the western and northern elevations would allow an increase in warehouse operations.
The proposed new petrol filling station has been located to the south west of the site to ensure that the increased customer parking provision is contained as one main area as near as possible to the entrance of the store.
An articulated lorry turning circle would be provided in the service yard area, with more parking spaces accessed via the filling station although it is envisaged these would primarily be used by staff.
Work would be phased to minimise disruption to customers.
A final decision will be taken by Northumberland County Council.