City leaders welcome Exeter Ikea move
CITY leaders have welcomed the decision by furniture giant Ikea to build a huge new store near Sandy Park in Exeter.
The store, planned for land between the A379 and old Rydon Lane near to the Sandy Park rugby stadium, will create hundreds of new jobs and is the first outlet the company has built in the UK for years.
Leader of the city council Councillor Pete Edwards said the announcement is further confirmation the city is bucking the national economic trend.
"Ikea is potentially a very big deal for the city, and would underline the tremendous
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progress we have made in confirming Exeter as a place open for business," he said.
"As with John Lewis, the city has been working for many years to attract Ikea.
"It is one of the few brands – John Lewis being another – which draws spending from a very wide catchment area.
"There is a lot of work to be done to address planning and transport considerations but we look forward to working with Ikea in the coming months."
Karime Hassan, Exeter City Council's strategic director, commented: "It is common knowledge the city council has aspired to attract an Ikea store.
"However, finding a suitable site has been challenging, and the council has to assess the impact of any store on the council's planning policies which seek to protect the city centre. The council is now in pre-planning talks with the company regarding a specific site close to the M5, but in line with the council's established practice regarding pre-application discussions the details are confidential.
"Any planning application will be subject to wide public consultation.
"It is a very complicated timetable, and there is a lot of work to be done in preparing a planning application to address the technical requirements.
"An application is unlikely to be received within the next couple of months."
Steve Pettyfer, Ikea's UK and Ireland property manager, said: "Ikea has been identifying sites around the country for potential stores, including the South West of England.
"We have worked with Exeter City Council to identify a number of locations that could be suitable in the Exeter area. "However, these discussions are continuing so we are unable to comment further at this point."
Derek Phillips, vice-president of Exeter Chamber of Commerce, said: "We are obviously delighted that Ikea has chosen Exeter. It reaffirms our position as the retail hotspot of the South West, following the redevelopment of Princesshay and the arrival of John Lewis.
"It's another boost to the Exeter economy, and a sign of confidence in the city from iconic names like Ikea and John Lewis. Hundreds of new jobs are always good news, especially in the current climate.
"Ikea has looked at a lot of other places around the Westcountry but has chosen Exeter, which is great. They have been talking to planners about a number of sites for several years."
Ikea is planning the store on land between the A379 and old Rydon Lane near to the Sandy Park rugby stadium, home of Exeter Chiefs.
Mr Phillips added: "Of the sites they have been looking at, I think this is the one where shoppers are most likely to go on to spend money at other retailers in the city, due to its location and transport links."
Ikea was locked in discussions with the city council in the summer of 2001, but the plans failed to progress because the retailer was looking for a site of between 10 and 20 acres which, at that time, the city council was unable to identify.
A spokeswoman for Ikea said: "On average, Ikea stores are approximately 20,000 to 40,000 square metres. This means most sites capable of accommodating an Ikea store are naturally based out of city centres.
"Decades of retailing experience, worldwide, have proven that Ikea stores need to be given ample space to present the 9,500 home furnishing products across the various areas of the home to meet the needs of Ikea visitors."