RETAIL giant Tesco has confirmed it is still on course to open a store in Tenbury despite a raft of rumours locally surrounding the proposal.

Malvern Hills District Council local member Tony Penn had put pressure on the firm as doubts grew about exactly when and even if the store was going to be built, with a question mark still hanging over the dates.

Coun Penn holds the planning portfolio on MHDC and has expressed his frustration at delays but says that he is very concerned about speculation about the project.

Rumours have been flying around the town that the planned Tesco development may have fallen victim to cuts in the firm’s building programme.

Tesco has being going through a challenging period including losses on a failed attempt to break into the United States market.

But Coun Penn says he has asked for and received specific assurances about Tenbury.

“I, like many others, have become concerned following recent rumours and speculation about the future of Tenbury’s former Auction Yard,” said Tony Penn.

“This has now been derelict for well over 10 years and does nothing to help the town’s general appearance.

“My concern has been further compounded by reports that the proposed Tesco development as a superstore.

“It is in fact a small supermarket two thirds the size of the one in Ludlow.

“Following a recent telephone call from Jonathan Simpson, Tesco’s man responsible for the development, he has confirmed that construction will commence next year.

“In the meantime the company is clarifying various matters with the local authorities involved. He has promised to provide me with details.

“I am very much aware that, following approval of the planning application, most local people are anxious to see this derelict site developed.

I understand that it is now in the ownership of Tesco and that this fact together with this latest statement of intent will allay any fears that the site will remain undeveloped.”

It is exactly three years since the first public meeting on the plan for the supermarket was held in Tenbury.

Since then there has been a long delay that includes an original application that was refused followed by a second one that was withdrawn before planners gave the go-ahead to a scheme in the early part of 2012.

A further delay followed as Tesco bosses and planners from Malvern Hills District Council thrashed out final details.

It was hoped a meeting by the Board of the supermarket at the beginning of the year would result in a timetable but this has still not materialised.

The earliest date that the store, which is expected to create 100 full and part time jobs, could now be open for business, is thought to be in the autumn of 2014.