TESCO bosses say their Carlisle city centre store will reopen as soon as the area surrounding it is made safe.

The supermarket giant was forced to close its outlet on Victoria Viaduct when the road outside it was shut off amid fears about the stability of the neighbouring former Central Plaza Hotel.

Work to demolish the imposing - but derelict - building got underway this week.

Many Tesco shoppers have contacted The Cumberland News to push for news on when the store is likely to reopen.

The company has been keeping in close touch with Carlisle City Council, which has commissioned and is currently paying for the £1m-plus bill to bring the former hotel down.

And, although no date for when a reopening is yet forthcoming, Tesco has insisted it remains committed to the site.

A spokesman said: “We remain to committed to reopening our Carlisle Metro store once the council’s contractors have completed their work on the neighbouring building.

“We look forward to serving the community of Carlisle once again.”

Staff who normally work at Victoria Viaduct are understood to have been redeployed to their sister store at Rosehill while the closure is in place.

A number of other businesses have been affected by the Plaza crisis, with Carlisle City Council promising a hardship fund to support those feeling financial pain because of the disruption caused.

Work to bring the unstable building down is expected to take between three and four months.

A city council spokeswoman said of the work starting on Monday: “Our contractors have now taken control of the Central Plaza site.

“Prior to the demolition of the main building, the contractors will undertake enabling works that will ensure that adjacent and adjoining buildings are protected.

“Over the next few weeks they will also be creating a platform for the specialist long-reach demolition vehicle to access the rear of the main building.

“The design team has explored all options to safely demolish the building. Unfortunately due to the loading restrictions on Victoria Viaduct, the demolition vehicle will need to access the site from West Walls and demolition will be undertaken from the rear of the building towards the front. This will contain the debris field.

“When safe to do so, we will attempt to salvage the ornate carvings from the side of the building. These will then be in the ownership of Carlisle City Council.”

The authority has pledged that work will be finished as “quickly and safely as possible”.

“Contractors will continue to work over the Christmas period,” the spokeswoman added.

“The site continues to be secure and 24-hour security is in place with CCTV monitoring in place to prevent unauthorised access behind the debris field.

“We continue to support businesses and are proposing to put in place a hardship fund for businesses directly affected. We have also set up a hotline which will enable those businesses affected to have direct access to the support team. The number is 01228 817444 or email EDAdmin@carlisle.gov.uk.”

The total cost of demolition works is £1.35m. That includes the enabling works and professional fees.