Plans by Waitrose to extend its café, create a new exit and put in covered trolley shelters have been hailed by local councillors as a vote of confidence in Gillingham.
Councillor Mike Gould said: ‘It shows Waitrose – a national company – has got faith in this town. They’re proposing to spend two and a quarter million quid on this place. They are going to enlarge the cafe facilities.’
Fellow planning committee member Councillor Keith Wareham said the planned changes ‘can only enhance the business itself’.
And councillor Val Pothecary told the online meeting of town councillors on Monday evening: ‘It’s great to see a company like Waitrose continuing to invest in our lovely town.’
In its plans the supermarket states: ‘The existing café will be extended out under the existing canopy to the north east side of the store adjacent to the existing café space. This will increase the area for the café by 24m².
‘The café will be refurbished with a new kitchen and servery area internally and along with this the existing customer WC’s will be extended and refurbished. A large area of new glazing will be installed in the extension overlooking the external seating area.’
The company also plans to create a separate exit to the store, with the existing entrance and exit becoming an entry point only. The new exit will be where the ATM is currently located; this will be relocated.
‘This will increase the floor area of the store by 14m² and provide a new exit location for customers directly from the internal checkout areas,’ says the company.
‘This will also prevent the need for customers to go back on themselves to the existing doors on the southern corner which can be retained as a dedicated entry point only. This will improve customer flow into and out of the store.’
A spokesperson for Waitrose said the Gillingham branch was currently going through a ‘branch regeneration’, and that the the work on the café formed part of this. The café will have an ‘enhanced outdoor space’ with a combination of permanent and mobile seating options for customers to use, they told Gillingham News.
Chris Parry, the branch manager at Waitrose Gillingham, said: ‘We’re really excited about the work that’s going on in the branch and we can’t wait to unveil the new look to our customers and welcome them back into the café once it reopens.’