Sainsbury's aims to turn B&B headquarters into supermarket

MORE than 250 jobs could be created if plans to turn the site of the former head office of the collapsed bank Bradford & Bingley into a supermarket are approved.

Sainsbury's hopes to turn the site of the empty building in Bingley, West Yorkshire, into a supermarket by late 2012, provided the proposal obtains planning permission. The site, on Main Street in Bingley, was bought by Sainsbury's for an undisclosed sum earlier this year.

Four hundred Bradford & Bingley staff who had been based there were transferred to the company's Crossflatts office in 2009, after management decided that it was not viable to run two offices.

Local politicians and business people have been worried that the departure of such a large number of staff from Bingley town centre will have damaging consequences for surrounding businesses.

There are also concerns that the disused Bradford & Bingley site could deteriorate and become an eyesore.

Last month, Sainsbury's held a public display of the plans in Cardigan House, Bingley, to give people the chance to comment.

A spokesman for Sainsbury's said the proposed store would provide a shot in the arm for the local economy.

He added: "In terms of long-term benefits, obviously 250 plus jobs is a boost. Research shows that there are a lot of people travelling out of Bingley at the moment to do their shopping, primarily to Shipley and Keighley.

"The opening of a new store in the town centre could help to keep people in Bingley and, potentially, boost trade for other retailers. A similar thing happened in Guiseley (where Bradford-based supermarket chain Morrisons has a large store) and this has been brought up by a few people since Sainsbury's announced the plans.

"An application will be submitted in the New Year, but we haven't got a date yet.

"If we assume that it could take six months to go through planning, then the end of 2012 is a potential opening date."

Kevin MacMillan, Sainsbury's regional development executive, said: "Before a planning application is submitted, we want to know what local residents and businesses think about our plans."

Shipley Tory MP Philip Davies, whose constituency includes Bingley, said yesterday: "I very much welcome Sainsbury's proposals for a supermarket in Bingley.

"It will help to regenerate Bingley town centre by bringing in extra footfall, it will provide competition to the Co-op, which can only be a good thing for local residents, and it will provide a use for the site of the Bradford & Bingley offices which otherwise may well have fallen into disrepair and become an eyesore."

Jamie Illingworth, the chairman of Bingley Chamber of Trade, said the proposals had been well received by the chamber's members.

He added: "A new Sainsbury's would bring thousands of people a week into Bingley. It's important that the design of the store reflects the heritage of the area."

He said many small businesses in Shipley and Guiseley had benefited from having large supermarkets in their towns.

Representatives from Sainsbury's will meet members of Bingley Chamber of Trade at a meeting in Bradford & Bingley's offices in Crossflatts on Tuesday, January 11 next year.

Mark Wilcock, a partner at Watson Buckle chartered accountants, which employs 30 staff in Cottingley, near Bingley, said: "I can't see a problem with it (the Sainsbury's supermarket scheme). It will help to bring more traffic into Bingley."

Mr Wilcock highlighted the fact that the nearest major supermarkets were several miles away in Shipley and Keighley.

Initially, there had been speculation that Tesco might have been considering building a supermarket on Bradford & Bingley's Main Street site.

However, a Tesco spokesman told the Yorkshire Post in July 2009 that the site might not be big enough to offer the range of goods that would keep people shopping in Bingley, instead of driving on to Keighley or Shipley.

Mighty name on high street

Bradford & Bingley which listed on the London Stock Exchange in December 2000, was one of Britain's best known building societies.

In September 2008, during the financial crisis, all of Bradford & Bingley's retail branches and its savings accounts were transferred to Abbey. In January 2010 these were rebranded as Santander.

The remainder of the business was taken into public ownership. Bradford & Bingley is still responsible for servicing the needs of customers with existing mortgages and insurance policies. Bradford & Bingley is also responsible for servicing protection policies and certain investment products, depending on when they were sold.