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Morrisons could pull out of new Norwich store in wrangle over longer opening hours

PUBLISHED: 11:34 04 September 2014 | UPDATED: 11:34 04 September 2014

A computer generated image of the proposed new Morrisons store in Aylsham Road, Norwich.

A computer generated image of the proposed new Morrisons store in Aylsham Road, Norwich.

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A wrangle over opening hours and permissible delivery times has led to a warning that Morrisons could pull out of plans for a new superstore in Norwich.

Norwich City Council’s planning committee had granted permission for the superstore - which would create 250 jobs - at the Goff Petroleum and former Hartwells Garage site in Aylsham Road at a meeting in February.

The store had been given permission to be open to the public from 7am until 11pm Monday to Friday, from 9am until 6pm on Saturdays and from 10am until 5pm on Sundays and public holidays.

But Morrisons bosses want longer opening hours and delivery times, so the applicant Michael Goff, who currently owns the site, had asked councillors to allow longer opening hours and permissible delivery times.

Councillors were today due to discuss whether the store could open an hour earlier in the week and from 6am until 11pm on Saturdays and to allow deliveries to be made from 4am in the mornings.

But, at the 11th hour, the application was pulled.

The applicant revealed a new planning application had been lodged, which seeks that the store be open even longer - from 4am until 11pm Mondays to Saturdays and from 10am until 5pm on Sundays and public holidays.

The new application also seeks permission for deliveries around the clock and for no car parking charges.

A letter sent to the council by the agents for the developers and Morrisons yesterday stated: “If the store cannot operate efficiently, and on terms with its competitors, (such as Asda at Hellesdon) then Morrison’s would have no alternative but to walk away from the site.

“Fundamental to this is their ability to offer attractive store opening hours and make deliveries to the store at operationally appropriate times.”

In a statement presented to the committee, the applicant said: “Goff Petroleum and supermarket operators WM Morrison in 2013 entered into a lease containing a list of specific points which Morrisons define as “onerous conditions”.

“Agreement was sought and obtained from Morrisons on changes to how in practice they intend to trade the store, with specific reference to opening hours, deliveries and short stay car parking.

“The applicant carried out all the evidence based research to support these changes and a planning application was made.

“In early August 2014, we were made aware by Morrisons solicitors that they intended to challenge the applicant’s view that the obligations in the agreement had been met.

“It now transpires that unless Goff Petroleum satisfied the onerous conditions in full, it seems likely that Morrison will seek to terminate the agreement.”

That, the applicant said, meant a new application had to be lodged.

The new application is likely to come before the planning committee next month.

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