THE Tesco store in Gerrards Cross is set to open in just over a month, but to the majority of people in the village, what it will look like inside is still something of a mystery. It is even difficult to judge what the size of the building is, because from the street, it is only possible to see the front of the development. Reporter Jack Abell was invited by Tesco to take a look around the site in packhorse in order to get a better impression of the nature of the development.
Like everyone else who lives in or around Gerrards Cross, the Tesco development has been a source of intrigue going back to before the tunnel collapsed over the railway bridge in 2005.
The subject of what would happen to the site in between the collapse and the announcement that the development would continue two years later was a big talking point in the village, and since then, people in the area have watched as the area has developed from a building site to the near complete supermarket we can see today.
Last week, I was given a tour of the site by Michael Kissman, Tesco's corporate affairs manager and Martin Baughurst, developer Costain's project manager for the development.
After donning a hard hat, sturdy boots, a reflective coat, protective glasses and gloves, I made my way down to the site, entering the development from the Packhorse Road.
We walked along the length of the store, where the main entrance will be, and towards the site's 307 space car park.
Shoppers will be able to use different entrances to the shop, one which will be accessible from the car park, and one from the Packhorse Road.
"The shop has been designed to be as much in character with the rest of Gerrards Cross as possible," says Mr Baughurst.
"We are using wood to cover up the pillars which hold the store up on the outside, so that it blends in with other shops and buildings in the area.
"The shop is also lower to the ground than other buildings around it, which means that it does not tower over surrounding properties.
"This means that it doesn't dominate the area, and is another thing that has been done to make sure we stay as much in character with the other shops in Gerrards Cross as we possibly can."
After this we go in to the store itself, through the service yard where lorries will make their deliveries, and through the staff quarters into the main shopping area of the store.
There will be a baker's section, as well as a meat and fish area, and a delicatessen, as well as the aisles full of food and other household items.
The tills will be place along what will be the main front of the shop, running at a 90 degree angle from the Packhorse Road.
To give an idea of the size of the shop in comparison with other supermarkets in the area, it is approximately 60 per cent as big as the Tesco in Amersham.
"It is actually one of the smaller stores of its type that we have," says Mr Kissman. "It will be largely a food only store. We won't be selling clothes or anything like that, which is the reason why it is a relatively small store."
I also paid a visit to the tunnel, through which trains are frequently running to and from Marylebone station.
"This has been a huge part of the operation," says Mr Baughurst. "After the tunnel collapsed we had to look at why that happened, and then work to ensure it could never happen again.
"The tunnel itself has taken a phenomenal amount of work, and has come only come about after lengthy discussions with Network Rail and other organisations."
The store is due to open on Monday, November 29, with a special ceremony taking place to mark the occasion.
Despite the undoubted growing excitement in Gerrards Cross about the project, there remains a dedicated group of people who have been opposed to the project since day one, fearing the impact it will have on the village and other businesses.
However, Mr Kissman says that Tesco are not in town to take trade from existing shops.
He said: "Hopefully, the new shop will see more people coming to Gerrards Cross, and all the businesses will benefit from it.
"We are in the middle of the Packhorse Road, in line with other shops. People who are on foot can pop in to Tesco, and then carry on along the road, going to other shops.
"We are primarily a food shop, so we aren't in competition with clothing shops, of which there are a lot in Gerrards Cross.
"Even the food shops in the village won't be in direct competition with us, because we are doing different things to them.
"Hopefully, people will realise this, and all the shops in the village will see an improvement in trade because of this shop."