CONCERNS are growing over the state of the old Co-op in Whitton, with reports of rats running around among dead birds in the long-derelict store.
Lidl is understood to be keen on taking over the High Street shop, which has been empty for nearly 20 years, but negotiations are still ongoing with the owners and Richmond Council.
Almost two years since Sainsbury's ended its interest in the site, after talks with the council broke down, traders and residents are growing ever more exasperated by the lack of action.
Whitton town centre manager Amanda Lyndon-Chappell said: "We're trying to raise the profile of Whitton and attract new businesses but it doesn't help having that at the bottom of the High Street.
"We would love to see the site occupied as soon as possible. It's been derelict for far too long and the associated health and safety and environmental issues cannot be ignored. The arrival of a new big brand may instil a new confidence and dynamic to the High Street and inspire other businesses to invest in Whitton.
"In fact, we’ve recently welcomed 4 new businesses. Whitton has a great community spirit, a low crime rate and a lot of potential."
She added that she was looking into getting the 'rubbish tip' at the back of the store cleared and getting ex-convicts to help clean and paint the shop front as part of the Community Payback scheme.
Colin Gillman, of Wills Crescent, Whitton, said: "Dead birds are one thing, but last night I saw with my own eyes one of the biggest rats that I have ever seen scurrying around inside. It made me shudder to think just what else might be lurking around inside this disgusting health hazard that is rapidly becoming the shame of Whitton."
Mum-of-three Fiona Barry, who lives in Devon Avenue, Twickenham, called on the council to use compulsory purchase powers to buy the store.
"Over several weeks we have seen pigeons and vermin running around scavenging and then a few days later they are dead and decaying in front of our very own eyes. I feel these premises could potentially be a health hazard," she said.
Twickenham MP Vince Cable and Deborah Thomas, Tory candidate for the constituency, have both campaigned to get the site cleaned up with little success.