Expansion plan for Mall at Cribbs Causeway
A MULTI-million pound scheme which would see a massive expansion of The Mall shopping centre at Cribbs Causeway has been given a universal thumbs down by neighbouring councils.
The Mall is looking to increase in size by almost two-thirds in a bid to establish itself as the leading shopping destination in the South West.
But the move has angered businesses and councils in Bristol, North Somerset and Bath, who are all opposed to the idea amid claims it would see them lose out on millions of pounds worth of trade.
South Gloucestershire Council is holding a series of public hearings to discuss the planning document which will shape development in the area for the next two decades.
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As well as including the hoped-for extension at the Cribbs Causeway shopping centre, the blueprint also includes the planned development of Filton Airfield.
The airfield, which is the birthplace of the UK's aviation industry, is due to be closed by its owner BAE Systems at the end of the year. It is estimated that at least 5,000 new homes could be built on the prime land in the heart of the Filton and Patchway once the airfield has closed.
Dozens of individuals and organisations have written to the council voicing an opinion on the document but the plan to extend The Mall has drawn the most attention.
The aim is to increase the shopfloor space on offer at the centre by 35,000 square metres within the next 13 years. Currently The Mall is home to 135 shops over 66,0000 square metres and has the added bonus of 7,000 free parking spaces. It is still not clear if the plan is to build one large key store or a number of smaller outlets.
If it went ahead the move would propel The Mall into the UK's top 20 shopping centres, although it would still be dwarfed by the country's largest centre, the Metro at Gateshead. The plan would also see The Mall positioned as a "sub-regional centre" rather than an out of town shopping centre.
Steve Townsend, the town centre manager at Weston-super-Mare, claims that the resort could lose out by as much as £33 million a year if the work goes ahead.
He said: "Weston is expected to bear the brunt of any impact compared to Bristol and other towns. The Mall owners actually want 50,000 square metres of expansion which further increase impact on Weston.
"We currently have 109 vacant units and our town centre businesses fear that any further diversion of trade will impact on this number.
"We are also concerned that our £150 million redevelopment of Dolphin Square will struggle to attract quality brands that are desperately needed if there is an alternative at Cribbs Causeway."
Bristol city councillors Chris Windows and Mark Weston have also written to the council to raise their concerns. Their submission read: "The proposed expansion of The Mall at Cribbs Causeway by a further 50 per cent is completely unsustainable during a time of recession and would, furthermore, have a destructive effect on Cabot Circus and no doubt Bath and Weston-super-Mare.
"The potential loss of trade to those retail centres is potentially catastrophic and the bulk of the additional traffic it would generate would be added to an already congested Passage Road/Wyck Beck Road, adding to the misery already endured by local residents."
Zoe Wilcox, a planning and development officer at Bristol City Council, has also objected to the extension. She said: "The proposals threaten to have a major impact on Bristol city centre and other shopping centres within the city. The proposals would disrupt the existing hierarchy of centres within the West of England and beyond, are contrary to national policies promoting the vitality and viability of town centres and are not soundly supported by the evidence base."
Bristol's Cabot Circus and The Galleries have both objected to the expansion plan and Bath and North East Somerset Council has also thrown its weight behind the objections.
A spokesman for The Mall said: "The joint owners remain committed to their long-term investment at The Mall and feel the provisional allocation of additional retail space is a positive move by the council to safeguard its long-term future."
The Mall's commercial director, Jon Edwards, said it was imperative to adapt to meet the needs of national retailers, who were increasingly seeking bigger units, and to maintain the centre's regional importance.
He said: "The council is advocating allocating additional retail space at The Mall within the new core strategy. We feel this is a positive step and as the owners are major stakeholders and employers in the region, we will continue to actively engage with the council as the draft core strategy progresses and await the next stages of this process with interest."