Marks & Spencer tipped to open store in former Co-op building on New Milton's Station Road
A MAJOR up-market national store chain looks set to launch at the site of New Milton’s former Co-op which shut down nearly six years ago.
The family-run Bradbeers firm, which owns the unit at 85 Station Road, is yet to confirm persistent rumours that a Marks & Spencer Foodhall could open its doors there.
Smith Bradbeer & Co, which operates one of its long-running department stores on the opposite side of Station Road, bought the former Co-op premises in 2017, about 18 months after the supermarket stopped trading.
Contractors have been preparing the site for occupation by a national retailer.
Bradbeers director Justyn Davies told the A&T he could not yet reveal its identity but he promised it would provide a “huge boost” to the town centre.
Mr Davies said: “As landlord of the property at 85 Station Road, New Milton, we have agreed terms with a leading national retailer to occupy the premises.
“We are currently undertaking preparatory works prior to shop-fitting. Opening could be pre-Christmas 2021, although this may run into 2022.
“This will be a huge boost to New Milton town centre.”
M&S was also tight-lipped when approached by the A&T, but a spokesperson said: “We are interested in bringing an M&S Foodhall to New Milton and we will keep the local community updated as plans progress.”
New Milton Town Council’s town development manager, Suna King, stressed nothing had been confirmed pending an application going through for the signing of the lease.
But she welcomed the development, saying it showed “massive confidence” in New Milton and that it would attract further investment in the town.
“This can only help the town centre regeneration,” Mrs King told the A&T.
“Along with the adoption of the Neighbourhood Plan, this shows New Milton has a fantastic future.
“Coming through after 17 months of the pandemic, which has put a terrible strain on many high street businesses, for our high street to get this is such a massive sign of confidence for New Milton.”
In early July, Smith Bradbeer and Co secured a lawful use certificate from New Forest District Council, allowing the unit to be used without restrictions on the sale of any particular range of goods or to opening and/or delivery hours.
The 14,500-square foot, two-storey premises has a sizeable loading bay and car park to the rear.
M&S had previously registered interest in New Milton in 2017 but nothing came of it.