Tesco told to halt work on new Slough store
The controversial development is only a mile from Tesco's largest store in the country. The unprecedented move follows a long-running row about Tesco's acquisition and subsequent demolition of a Co-op supermarket on the site - a mile from one of the largest and most profitable Tesco stores in the country. In April, the Competition Commission was asked to look at the circumstances surrounding the purchase and demolition of the Co-op, after the breakdown of talks between Tesco and the Office of Fair Trading. The OFT first launched an investigation into Tesco's acquisition of the Co-op in 2003 after complaints from rivals.
Tesco agreed with the OFT to dispose of the store to a rival, but only after it had used it as a temporary store while it refurbished and extended its existing store in Slough. In 2004, Tesco moved into the Co-op. The retailer moved out a year later when it reopened the extended and refurbished Tesco Extra store a mile away. The former Co-op store remained derelict until it was demolished at the end of 2006.
Rival retailers say the store being developed by Tesco - which is just 26,900 sq ft, compared with the original 44,000 sq ft Co-op store - is too small to compete with the neighbouring Tesco hypermarket, which is almost four times as large. A spokesman for the Competition Commission, said: "We have decided to put a halt on things until we come to a decision. We want to keep our options open. Obviously, the further that construction goes on, the more work there might be to 'undo' in order to create a bigger store, which would cause further delay and could also make it less attractive for potential purchasers." However, a spokesman for Tesco, said they were disappointed. "This decision will only further increase the overall delays."
Meanwhile, J Sainsbury has this week submitted a planning application to build a 100,000 sq ft store on the site. A Sainsbury's spokesman said: "With a planning permission in place, Sainsbury's will be able to provide a new, competitive food store at the earliest opportunity should it acquire the site following an order by the Competition Commission requiring Tesco to sell the site to a competitor."