A new stretch of river, a roundabout and a massive underpass are all part of a major multi-million pound project underway in Chatteris to prepare the site of the town’s much awaited Tesco supermarket.
Contractors began work on the site off Fenland Way back in September and have already created a new channel for the Fenton Lode to take it around rather than through the site.
Liz Dent, of Manea-based ICIS Consultants, which is responsible for the project, explained the lode needed to be diverted to free up the site and so a new 900m long by 40m wide channel has been created.
“It was a massive undertaking and a real feat of engineering,” explained Liz.
Diverting the lode, which connects the 20ft with the 40ft, is just one of several major schemes needed to ensure the site is ready for the supermarket, which will be around two thirds the size of the March store.
Planning permission included the need for a pedestrian underpass linking the site with the town and this is set to run between the Larham Way play area and the supermarket.
“The underpass is will be much more than people might imagine. It will be four metres wide and four metres high and because of the lie of the land it will actually be more like a bridge as you will be able to see through from one side to the other. It won’t be a narrow tunnel with slopes either side. It is expected to take at least four months to build and the preparation work is complicated as we need to divert gas, electricity and water supplies as well as a main sewer,” explained Liz.
There will also be a new roundabout into the site, but while all this work is a mammoth task motorists will notice very little disruption.
“We have been told we need to keep the road open at all times, so there should be little disruption. Obviously there will be the odd occasion when we will need to put in traffic controls but they will only be used for very limited periods, although there will be a 40mph limit along the length of Fenland Way starting from Monday (January 13) for six months,” explained Liz.
The roundabout is offset and so will be actually on the supermarket site, which means it can be constructed without impeding the main road. The existing roundabout at the A142/Bridge Street junctions will also be upgraded as part of the supermarket scheme.
The aim is to have the supermarket shell constructed by the end of August ready for Tesco to take it over for fitting. It is expected to open at the end of October.
“Tesco is the only business to have so far committed to the site and have work started on its premises, although Travis Perkins is also looking to move from its current London Road location. We have reserved their plot, but the current climate within the building industry has put their move on hold for the time being. But they are still committed to coming here,” said Liz.
She believes that once Tesco is up and running it will prove a catalyst for other businesses to locate on the site.
“I know some people fear it will be bad for the town centre. But I think it will have a positive effect.
“The store will attract people from around the area and they are likely to pop into town to go to the bank or for other things and that has got to be good. At the moment many people are going out of town to do their shopping but hopefully that will change,” she said.
There have been a number of enquiries from other businesses interested in the 36 acre site, but Liz explained only one of those is likely to come to fruition in the near future.
“Businesses like to wait and see what happens. They will be looking at Tesco to see how that trades before they commit to coming here, but I’m sure
“Tesco will be successful and will be the catalyst needed to attract other businesses to Chatteris - and that can only be positive for the town,” she added.
Meanwhile Wisbech’s new Tesco mega-store is set to open on February 13 and the cinema, which is located next door on the Cromwell Road site is set for an April opening.
Cinema owners The Light issued reassurances to Fenland Council last week that they are still planning to open after concerns it was not ready to open at the same time as the supermarket, which was part of the store’s planning permission.
Cinema manager Phil Dove, explained their fitting schedule was different to the Tesco’s, but had now started.