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Co-op in Hoole aims to replace two stores with one in controversial plan

Move would awaken long-standing fears about threat to Faulkner Street shopping centre

Former councillor Bob Thompson objected to The Elms Medical Centre in Hoole being turned into a mini supermarket

Move over Tesco - the Co-op is now keen to open a mini-supermarket in a Chester community despite fears it could impact on existing shops.

There was great concern when planning permission was granted to convert The Elms Medical Centre, Hoole Road, into a convenience store with fears customers may bypass Hoole’s much-loved Faulkner Street shopping centre.

At the time Tesco was linked to the plan but following a national review, the retail giant is no longer interested. Instead The Co-op is in discussions about moving into the building and closing down its nearby existing stores in Faulkner Street and Walker Street with staff transferred across.

The Co-op in Faulkner Street, Hoole(Image: Google)

The surgery has since moved into The Fountains building in Chester city centre leaving the building empty. The Co-op insists the new store will be good for the community.

Nick Bullough, area manager for The Co-op, said: “This would represent a significant investment in the area. The Co-op is investing to transform its convenience business and is taking strides towards its ambition of being the UK’s number one convenience retailer – the move would safeguard and secure jobs in the area by providing one, new and improved, food store with which to better serve the community and to enhance the service that we already provide locally.

New Co-op 'an asset to community'

“We are still in discussions. However, we believe a new improved local Co-op store would become an asset to the community and, as a co-operative, it would play its part in local life too.”

Read: Hoole residents brand supermarket approval decision as 'disgusting'

Plans involve retaining the majority of the existing building on both floors, with the existing porch replaced with a new extension to provide a more open and inviting frontage. The new format food store would have ‘a focus on fresh, healthy foods, meal ideas and essentials’.

Co-op says a member of the food store team would also act as a Community Pioneer to foster involvement in community activities, such as local fundraising initiatives and support for the British Red Cross, The Co-op’s charity partnership, to tackle social isolation and loneliness in communities.

Sheriff of Chester Cllr Alex Black with his wife, Janet

Hoole ward Cllr Alex Black posted on Facebook: “With competition from Aldi and Waitrose, one of the shops is running at a loss and the other just breaking even so something has to be done to maintain the Co-op in Hoole and the company reckons that this is the only way to go.”

Cllr Black had wondered whether the Co-op funeral care business next to its Walker Street food store may also close but the company said this was not the case.

The Co-op in Walker Street, Hoole(Image: Google)

Members of the public and families of traders in Faulkner Street packed an emotional planning committee at Cheshire West and Chester Council’s HQ last February to oppose the retail scheme. The meeting was told 1,750 people had signed a petition against the change-of-use planning application.

Chairman Cllr Helen Weltman proposed approval and the scheme was passed to the incredulity of those gathered.

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