A HUGE new Morrisons supermarket was the deal maker when it came to selling off Pitsea swimming pool, according to a senior councillor.
Malcolm Buckley , Basildon councillor responsible for regeneration, said the council had “no choice” but to accept Morrisons’ view that it needed a 75,000 sq ft store to compete with the nearby gigantic Tesco Extra supermarket.
Plans to close the swimming pool and push on with Pitsea regeneration plans were approved by Basildon’s Tory cabinet last week, although the decision was taken in private due to “commercial sensitivities” over contracts and finance.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Buckley said Morrisons was adamant its store had to be supersize to make it worth coming to the town and thereby sparking major regeneration plans.
He said: “We are clear there is no way a store of 75,000 sq ft could be accommodated anywhere on that site that did not involve the council’s land, including the pool site.
“The choice was a stark one – do we keep the pool or go ahead with the town centre development? This is all good news, and means Pitsea can look ahead to the future.”
The new Morrisons, which received planning permission in May, will be nearly three times as big as the chain’s Hadleigh store, which opened earlier this year, but will still be dwarfed by the 125,000 sq ft Tesco Extra in Pitsea – the second largest Tesco in the country.
The Tory cabinet voted to transfer the ownership of Pitsea Swimming Pool to developers London and Cambridge Properties, who are in charge of the regeneration.
Under the plans the pool in Northlands Pavement, a row of shops, including Aldi and part of the market, would make way for the new Morrisons, which could create 350 local jobs and 200 during its construction.
A new Aldi will be built nearby, while a new 100-pitch market would be put on the site of the former Railway hotel and offices.
Campaigners trying to save the pool say the council has given too much away.
Byron Taylor, the Labour group’s deputy leader who is vehemently opposed the pool’s closure, said: “Why can’t we have a pool somewhere else in Pitsea?
“The council has just rolled over and done what Morrisons want.”
Building work on the plans could start by next summer.