A £25.5m project to build the first ASDA store in Slackbuie, Inverness, has finally commenced. The project has suffered numerous setbacks since plans were put forward in 2006 due to a long running dispute over the development between the client Elphinstone Land Ltd and Inverness Estates.
Works to construct the 40,000 sq ft supermarket, along with a petrol station and 494 parking spaces, began in June 2011 and are expected to be complete in autumn 2012. The new ASDA store is expected to create up to 400 jobs in the area.
ASDA property communications manager, Lisa Rooke, said: “The new ASDA in Slackbuie will not only be our first store in Inverness, but it will also be our first store in the Highlands, an area where we have been looking to open for many years now.”
The new ASDA will have to compete with the three existing Tesco outlets in Inverness. A 2006 survey indicated that the chain had a 51% share of the market for groceries in the city – the highest rate of penetration for any locality in the UK – leading the area to be dubbed ‘Tesco Town’ by national newspapers.
As part of the project, £1.5m of improvements will be made to the major Inverness slip road needed to accommodate traffic for ASDA’s planned superstore. This phase of the project began in October 2011 and will be run into 2012, including: the widening of the existing eastbound carriageway of the slip road between the A9 southbound carriageway and the B9006 Culloden Road, the modification of the signal controlled junction with Culloden Road and changes to the carriageway surface, drainage, signage and road markings.
An ASDA spokeswoman said: “We are delighted that the first phase of construction is nearing completion. The works are designed to bring improvements to this area of the A9 and we look forward to the benefits that the work will bring. We believe ASDA’s store in Inverness will greatly improve the supermarket shopping on offer in Inverness and we are looking forward to its completion.”
The project has also unwittingly unearthed the historical value of the ASDA site. In September 2010, a Bronze Age burial site was uncovered when archaeologists found an area of cremation pits surrounded by a ring ditch. Pieces of Neolithic pottery known as Unstan Ware and almost 2,000 flints were discovered during digs led by Edinburgh-based NG Archaeology Services.
A spokesperson said: “ASDA has satisfied all the conditions regarding the archaeological survey and is now free to continue with our planning proposals for a supermarket at Slackbuie, Inverness.
“We are confident that we have removed all items of interest but we will continue to work closely with the Highland Council’s archaeology department in case of any future finds.”