PLANS to bring two retail giants into Ulverston in a development which could create 300 jobs have prompted concerns the town centre economy will be damaged.

Marks & Spencer and Aldi are looking to have stores open to customers by the start of 2019 if planning approval is given to the proposal at the Beehive site, adjacent to where the Blue Light Hub is being created.

Fears have, however, been raised that more out-of-town stores will ruin the market-town feel of Ulverston.

The scheme would also see Lake District Farmers move its meat processing hub to the Beehive from its current base in Tebay, and Ulverston-based engineering consultancy FETL Ltd (Furness Engineering and Technology Ltd) moving into new purpose-built headquarters in the town.

Other businesses which will be based on the site if the plans go-ahead include a solicitors’ practice, vet’s surgery and an insurance office.

The M&S Foodhall and Aldi store could together create more than 70 jobs. Combined with almost 50 jobs at the Blue Light Hub itself, the development could see more than 300 workers based at the Beehive on the A590.

Planning procedures to get the site moving will begin next month with public consultations in Ulverston.

The plans are being prepared by the Rawdon Property Group (RPG), which made a presentation to Ulverston Town Council (UTC) at the site on Wednesday.

RPG director Brian Scott said: “We are delighted to be retaining jobs and bringing new employment opportunities to the town.

"But the commitment we have received from M&S and Aldi is the vital element in making the commercial development of the site viable.

“The site is already designated by South Lakeland District Council for job creation, and the fact that work is already underway on the road junction, and groundworks for the Blue Light Hub, is a considerable advantage.”

Mr Scott said RPG aims to work closely with UTC and SLDC to ensure the new development delivers real benefits for the town as a whole.

“A lot of people have talked about the advantages of having an M&S Foodhall and Aldi in Ulverston, in terms of bringing people to the town and encouraging local people to shop here instead of heading for supermarkets in Barrow or Kendal,” he said.


Gavin Knott, who runs Appleseeds Health Store at Market Street, said he was surprised the proposal had come forward given that in 2013 another supermarket chain, Sainsbury's, was refused permission to build a store at the same location.

"As a trader I would very much welcome Aldi, M&S and anyone else to come and set up in the town," he said. "But it will just drag footfall from the centre which we've tried and fought very hard to keep.

Cllr Colin Pickthall, who represents the north ward on UTC, said it was impossible to guess whether the site would be approved or not.

"The land is designated for high-tech industry and what the developers are telling us is they can't find any," he said.

"But if the district council were to agree to open it up for retail it seems to me they would be setting a precedent for all other land designations in the district.

"There is the offer of jobs at a time when the development at GlaxoSmithKline looks to be ending so it is a difficult one for the planners to square. I'm glad I don't have to make the decision on it because whatever they decide I think will be unpopular.

"With Aldi, people will say they want that sort of supermarket but it is out of the town and they will take traders from the town, there's no doubt about it."