The long-deserted Food Centre at Central Milton Keynes could become a site for up to 1,000 new flats, the Citizen can reveal.
Much of the once-thriving centre has stood empty since Sainsbury moved out eight years ago.
The supermarket giants, for fear a competitor would move in, refused to relinquish the lengthy lease and continued to pay a reported £1m a year in rent.
Meanwhile Waitrose moved out of the other side, and the building became increasingly derelict.
Last week, during a meeting to discuss the new Plan:MK, it was revealed centre:mk has managed to get the lease back from Sainsbury’s.
The meeting heard that the site, already earmarked in Plan:MK as a possibility for housing, could technically take between 500 and 1000 new flats, Chair of Xplain campaign group Linda Inoki said: “It’s disgraceful the way Sainsbury’s has left the Food Centre to languish for such a long time, just so they could stamp out the competition!”
She added: “Building 1,000 flats would be massive. It could bring 1,500 new residents into the retail core. That would boost the centre:mk and also give a much-needed boost to the outdoor market.
“But the last thing we need is another Hub. They need top quality architecture so it’s not just a monolithic block of flats.”
Sainsbury’s moved out of the Food Centre in 2010 in order to open their new, highly successful superstore less than half a mile away at the Hub
A spokesman for centre:mk said: “As part of Milton Keynes Council Plan:MK, which covers the borough’s development needs until 2031, Milton Keynes Council has identified the food centre as a potential site for residential development. Centre:mk has been keen for some time to find a long-term solution to the Food Centre, one which would contribute to the city centre as a whole. The agreement with Sainsbury’s provides for an opportunity to revisit the function of the building for the first time in 30 years. Centre:mk hopes to have early discussions with the council and others about the future of the Food Centre in the coming months.”