LEADING retailer Waitrose has today announced plans to leave thecentre:mk by next spring.
The store will relocate a couple of miles away to an area next to Oakgrove School where a new mixed-use development is currently being built.
All 158 staff will be offered the chance to move and the new store will be a “significantly improved” version of the existing one, say the company.
The move has sparked anxiety about the future of thecentre:mk Food Centre, which already has a large number of empty units.
Sainsbury’s moved out more than two years ago to a new complex at The Hub, and that space has never been filled. But this week the shopping centre management assured people that the Waitrose move would not be the death knell for the Food Centre.
“We are working on plans for the centre. It will still be a retail place and it could be even better than before,” said a spokesman.
Waitrose’s lease expires next year and it will continue to trade from the Food Centre until the new store opens.
The Oakgrove development, which is off Chaffron Way, will take the form of a neighbourhood centre and will include 1,000 new homes, leisure units, parklands and ultimately a primary school and nursery.
Developer, Crest Nicholson, secured planning consent for the first phase of the new development in March and started work on site in May.
Paul Taylor, branch manager at Waitrose Milton Keynes, will manage the new shop. He said: “This will mark an exciting new chapter for Waitrose in Milton Keynes that ensures we can build on 25 years of trading here.
“The new store represents a significant investment by the John Lewis Partnership and underlines our long-term commitment to the town.
“In many ways it will be sad to leave our existing premises, but our new home in Oakgrove will enable us to provide a significantly improved shop and offer for both our customers and our Partners.”
Development director at Crest Nicholson, Ian Rhodes, said: “We’re excited to have Waitrose opening in what promises to be a vibrant new village centre, close to one of the most beautiful parks in Milton Keynes.
“The first houses are already being constructed and having Waitrose ensures residents will have great amenities on hand when they move into their new home.”