BRITAIN’S largest mutually owned retailer, the Co-operative Group, has revealed that it and not Tesco will be the occupant of a regional distribution centre on Andover airfield.

The news, flagged up by the Advertiser two weeks ago, was confirmed after airfield owners Goodman signed the agreement with Co-op Group on Wednesday.

The Co-operative Group group’s new regional distribution centre (RDC) will create 900 jobs, but at 500,000 sq ft in area, it will be 42 per cent smaller than the 863,000 sq ft ‘megashed’ building given permission in August.

Trevor Ashworth, director of food retail logistics for the Co-operative Group, said : “With the acquisition of the Somerfield supermarket chain earlier this year, we are in the process of reshaping our distribution network to ensure we continue to provide high standards of service to our customers.

“Andover is an excellent location from which to serve our stores in this part of southern England.

“Our planned new RDC will provide both employment and a further boost to the local economy.”

The two organisations are now working on a fresh planning application that will be the subject of public consultation shortly.

Goodman proposes to deal with all off-site issues in the same way as in the scheme granted planning permission in August 2009.

Jason Harris of Goodman said: “With the recent granting of planning permission on our site, we are able to offer the Co-operative a degree of certainty on the location.

“All issues of principle have been resolved within the existing planning consent and we are therefore hopeful of an early decision on the new application so that we can get on and deliver the new Andover Commercial Park.”

The balance of the land, which would have been occupied by the larger warehouse, will be replanned to accommodate a range of smaller buildings.

The Manchester-based Co-operative Group has annual sales of more than £14 billion and is widely recognised for its ethics and its leadership position in sustainability.

Since 2007, 99 per cent of its electricity has come from renewable sources, it has cut greenhouse gas emissions by almost 40 per cent in five years and it has established its own wind farm to produce renewable power.