THE flagship Asda superstore development planned for Widnes town centre took a giant step forward this week as builders prepared to start work at the site.
Cheshire police have signed over the necessary land to enable the project in Simms Cross to go ahead and the supermarket chain, owned by American retail giant Walmart, is ready to step in.
Now the paperwork is complete, contractors will be able to move on the site by September.
The £21m project - which will create 150 jobs - includes a car park with 500 spaces and environmental improvements to the landscape, which will be completed by proposals to refurbish the surrounding
area in Simms Cross and provide a link to the town centre.
The plans include improved traffic and parking conditions, the planting of trees and provision of street furniture.
The £1.8m refurbishment of Victoria Square, which lies at the other side of the Asda development, was completed earlier this year and has restored the plaza-style paved area to its original Victorian state.
The schemes, as well as the redevelopment of the north Albert Road area and the start of work on the Peelhouse Lane link, will have a significant impact on the town, according to councillors, and represent a £24.5m investment in the centre.
Widnes Regeneration, a joint venture between St Modwen Properties and Halton Borough Council, has been working on the development of the centre for the last five years.
Director Michelle Taylor said: 'We are delighted to have finally secured the Asda development, which is a key part of the regeneration of the whole town centre.
'It has been a long time coming, but we are now looking forward to delivering more development at Simms Cross and between Asda and Victoria Square, as well as the JJB development which is already under way.'
Stephen Clark, director of property for Asda stores, said: 'We are extremely excited to be a key part of this regeneration scheme.
'Asda has been trading in Widnes for more than 30 years and we are delighted to now be able to provide our loyal customers with a larger, modern store, offering a wider range of goods and services.'
The council's executive board member for development, planning and transportation, Cllr Rob Polhill, added: 'This is excellent news for Widnes.
'We hope to see the superstore opening in summer 2004.
'On completion, the journey from Victoria Square to Simms Cross and
into the town centre will be something very different for shop-pers and businesses alike.'