AFTER a wait of more than five years, Kelso finally saw Sainsbury’s open the doors of its long-promised new store on the outskirts of the town this week, writes Mark Entwistle.
All thoughts of the three-year battle to outwit retail rival, Tesco, for the right to build the store on land at Pinnaclehill Industrial Estate and the row over its planned cafe, were forgotten yesterday, as townsfolk started queing early to get their first glimpse of the interior of the 30,000sqft building.
Kelso provost Fiona Scott and her predecessor, Margaret Riddell, jointly cut the ribbon to officially open the store at 8.30am yesterday.
Sainsbury’s, which has also agreed to fund a shuttle bus service to ferry customers between the store and the the town centre for the next two years, has created more than 220 new full and part-time jobs with the multi-million-pound development.
And the company has pledged that the bulk of the employees – including the management team – have come from Kelso and the surrounding area.
As well as the store, which utilises a number of environmentally-friendly design features, the project encompasses a petrol station and a new five-exit roundabout.
The new shuttle bus service, using a vehicle in Saibsury’s distinctive orange livery, will operate Mondays to Saturdays, 52 weeks a year, from 9am until 3.30pm each day between the new store and the town centre, with occasional journeys to peripheral housing areas.
Getting a tour of the store at a function for local civic leaders, councillors and invited guests on Tuesday night, Mrs Riddell said it had been worth the wait. “Without a doubt – definitely worth waiting for,” she told TheSouthern. “This will be a real asset to Kelso.
And her comments were echoed by local Scottish Borders councillor Tom Weatherston, who added: “There’s no doubt it will help townspeople.”
Current Kelso provost, Fiona Scott, said it had actually been 10 years since Sainsbury’s had first expressed an interest in opening a supermarket in Kelso.
“It has been worth the wait. Kelso needs to move with the times,” she said.
Asked about fears for the future of local town centre shops in the wake of the store opening, Provost Scott said that had been a major concern all along.
“That has been a concern all through this – the effect on existing businesses. But I really hope that a store of this calibre and this size will pull people into Kelso for shopping trips, which they will also link with town centre visits.”
Sainsbury’s does appear to have made genuine efforts to allay concerns over the impact on local businesses, including altering plans for the proposed cafe on the site after objections from town traders.
Paul Miller, Sainsbury’s national development surveyor for Scotland, told us: “We are delighted to be opening our store in Kelso and have worked effectively with the council, residents and traders to ensure that our free bus service will promote Kelso as the premier market town in the Borders.
“The free bus service is open to all residents and visitors to Kelso and we feel it will be particularly helpful to those who don’t have access to transport to use local businesses and the Sainsbury’s store.”