11 AUG 2011

My letter to Morrisons' Chief Executive calling on him to unblock the reopening of their disused Tunbridge Wells store

"I'm writing to express my deep concern about what I understand to be the position that Morrisons have taken regarding the vacant Tunbridge Wells store. In doing so I should make clear that I am writing as the constituency MP for Tunbridge Wells rather than in my ministerial capacity.

Since Morrisons closed its Tunbridge Wells store in 2006 the empty site has been a blight on our town. Not only have residents been deprived of a building that was designed to meet their needs, but its boarded up doors and windows directly opposite the railway station has been a bleak and depressing sight for visitors arriving at our beautiful town as well as an eyesore for any resident using the station.

The building has become a grot spot – regularly attracting graffiti and the car park has been periodically a focus for criminality.

I understand from Tunbridge Wells Borough Council that one of your competitor supermarkets, Waitrose, has agreed to bring the vacant site back into use and, with the freeholder, to invest in improving its appearance. Everyone in Tunbridge Wells considers this to be wonderful news.

And yet, I am told, Morrisons have now decided not to surrender its lease but instead to keep the store closed in the state that it is in.

If this is true, it would be an appalling blow to the town. It is one thing for the company to abandon the town, it's quite another to stand in the way of others to clear up the mess left behind.

It would reflect very badly on Morrisons' reputation locally and it would also be a warning to other communities across the country of the values of the firm.

I will be grateful for your urgent assurance that these suggestions are not the case, and I would ask you and your Board to do whatever is necessary to ensure that the supermarket is reopened without delay."

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