Groundwork to prepare the IBM Greenock site for a potential £100 million residential and commercial transformation is under way.

The site at Spango Valley, which is owned by Sandy and James Easdale and Advance Construction, is currently subject to a planning application for a mixed-use masterplan which would include up to 450 new homes, alongside areas of new employment, leisure, community and retail use.

The proposals also include a park and ride facility adjacent to IBM rail stop, which would see the station reopened to the public, alongside areas of extensive greenspace, parkland and a network of new paths across the site.

Demolition teams moved onto the site this week and it is hoped that if planning permission is approved, construction can begin before the end of 2020.

It is anticipated that 300 jobs - including at least 50 apprenticeships - will be created through the construction phase which could last up to seven years.

READ MORE: Drone footage: Easdales’ £100m plan for IBM site to go on public display

The Easdale family said they are committed to bringing the project to fruition despite the Covid-19 crisis which has engulfed the local and national economy.

Sandy Easdale: “Getting the groundwork underway and demolishing the remaining buildings at the site marks another major milestone in securing the long-term transformation of the former IBM site.

“This development has the potential to breathe new life into the area, bringing high quality housing, new businesses and skilled jobs to Greenock. We’ve already been in discussions with several major housebuilders who see the potential at Spango Valley for those who already live locally as well as people who want to move to Inverclyde. This would help address the population decline in the area.

“Despite the economic crisis, we are more committed than ever to see this project become reality. It is a huge opportunity for the region at a time when good news is in short supply.”

HeraldScotland:

James Easdale said: “Being local, we want to see the town prosper. IBM opened in 1951 and at one stage more than 5,000 people were employed there. It is now an empty shell and this has taken its toll on the region.

“If we get the go ahead to put our plans into action then apprenticeships, construction jobs and upon completion, commercial employment will all be brought to the area. The Spango Valley site will become a high-quality, vibrant, attractive environment to live and work. Such a boost is needed more than ever and we intend to deliver for Inverclyde.”

The Easdales, in partnership with Advance Construction, are also the driving force behind a £250m, 850-home housing development at a 130-acre site in Glenrothes.

The development at the former Tullis Russell paper mill will feature 850 new homes, a care home, retirement village, commercial, retail and leisure space and has already been approved by Fife Council. It is expected to take a decade to complete.

Retailer Superdry has cheered a new £70 million financing deal with its banks to help it through the coronvirus crisis as it revealed that stores sales continue to tumble.

The fashion brand said its performance in the three months to July 25 was better than first feared as total sales declines narrowed to 24.1%, but it admitted that trading remained "materially" affected by the pandemic despite 95% of its shops now having reopened.

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Total store sales plunged 58.1% in its first quarter, with like-for-like trading down 32.3% in the 13 weeks to July 25.

Online sales surged 93.2% in the quarter, though it said they have started returning to more normal levels in recent weeks as stores reopen with the easing of lockdown restrictions.

The group said previously that growth in its e-commerce business had offset around a third of lost store sales when it was forced to shut all its outlets.

Co-founder and chief executive Julian Dunkerton said the new financing deal helps "secure our recovery".

It comes after the company had already taken numerous steps to save cash, including furloughing 88% of its staff at one stage in the lockdown, and rent deferrals from landlords.

Mr Dunkerton said: "The actions we have taken to date have greatly strengthened our cash position, which, together with our new asset-backed lending facility, give us the flexibility to execute our current plans and to secure our recovery.

"Together, we are making our way through this unprecedented period and I'm confident we can reset the brand and deliver on our transformation plans."

More than 22,000 restaurant jobs have been shed so far this year, after the coronavirus pandemic caused swathes of closures across the sector, according to new figures.

Job losses at UK restaurants so far in 2020 are already almost double the number of redundancies for the entirety of 2019, according to the Centre for Retail Research.

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Figures compiled by the organisation have revealed that 22,039 roles were lost across large restaurant groups and independent operators from the start of the year to August 4.

It said this represents a 95.4% increase on the 11,280 job losses reported during the whole of 2019.

The figures also revealed that 1,467 restaurants and casual dining outlets have closed over this period, representing a 59.1% increase on the total 922 sites which closed during 2019.

On Monday, Pizza Express became the latest operator to reveal major cuts, announcing plans to axe up to 1,100 jobs and permanently shut around 67 of its restaurants.

It came after rivals Carluccio's, Byron and Bella Italia owner Casual Dining Group all slipped into administration after the virus and subsequent lockdown exacerbated already tough conditions for casual dining firms.

Professor Joshua Bamfield, director of the centre, said: "The sector was already in severe difficulties before the pandemic as a result of rapid over-expansion fuelled by private equity acquisitions, with the enforced lockdown serving to starve operators of revenue bringing restaurateurs now to their knees."

The Government had hoped to fend off job losses through its furlough scheme, with analysts now warning that redundancies could continue as the scheme is wound down in the coming months.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak also wiped out business rate payments for restaurants for the current financial year as part of financial support measures.

Restaurants have this year received a business rates holiday worth £622.13 million as a result, according to analysis by real estate adviser Altus Group.

Robert Hayton, head of business rates at Altus, said: "Urgent clarity is needed now on the level of that support moving forward as difficult decisions lay ahead."

However, Mr Sunak has resisted calls to extend the furlough scheme with targeted measures to stave off further job losses, saying the support cannot go on "indefinitely".

The Government also launched its £500 million Eat Out to Help Out programme to boost customer spending by subsidising a 50% discount on food and soft drinks up to a maximum of £10 per diner on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays this month.

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