Food giant Sainsbury’s are still hanging on to the lease of their empty CMK Food Centre store – SIX YEARS after they quit the building.
This week a Citizen investigation discovered the supermarket bosses and shopping centre owners are seemingly nowhere near negotiating a solution.
Sainsbury’s has a superstore half a mile away at the Hub. But it is paying around £1m a year in rent and service charges for the unused food centre facility, which still has years to run on its lease.
This month, following the death of tent-dweller James (Jimmy) Owens, there has been public pressure for the company to use the empty store to provide immediate shelter for homeless people.
But a Sainsbury’s spokesman said this was not possible.
He said: “We understand people’s concerns, and have supported a number of homeless charities in the past including Milton Keynes
Winter Night initiative.
“Hermes own the site and have placed a number of restrictions on the use of the building.”
The spokesman added: “We do not want to see the site lie empty and have asked them to lift these so we can get it back into use as soon as possible.
“Unfortunately they have refused to do so and as a result we have been unable to sub-let the building. “We are continuing to discuss the matter with them.”
Four years ago the Citizen reported Sainsbury’s was “actively pursuing” ways to move forward. The company says there has never been any interest in the site from rival food retailers.
The food centre suffered another blow three years ago when Waitrose moved out. Now there is only an Iceland store, a couple of restaurants and a handful of small shops - including two hairdressers.
Kevin Duffy, director of centre:mk, said: “There are real challenges for the homeless community within the city centre and our thoughts are with those who continue to be affected.”
He added: “It is important that the right solution is found, and we agree with councillors and the local community that the Food Centre is not the right location for a homeless hostel or “wet hostel” facility, given the nature of the drug, alcohol and mental health issues suffered by some users.
“We remain determined to find a solution to the Food Centre that contributes to the city centre as a whole, and we are continuing to talk with Sainsbury’s about their empty store. Until that happens we do not have control of the Food Centre.”