Empty shops warning as £120m scheme urged for market town

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RETAILERS are raising concerns about the increase in the number of retail units in a £120m development in Beverley, which is being recommended for approval by planners.

The Flemingate scheme will include restaurants, an 80-bed Premier Inn, 20,000 sq ft of office accommodation, and independent cinema as well as a major retail element which has already attracted store chain Debenhams.

But traders fear that an increase in the retail element by 25 per cent could end up creating a separate shopping complex, harming town centre trade.

Although the scheme, which is a 10-minute walk from the town centre, has outline planning permission, it is going back to councillors next week because of changes in the layout and amount of retail space.

Members of the Beverley and District Chamber of Trade have objected, saying there is a “real risk” that it will create many empty shops.

Beverley Renaissance Partnership says the scheme has almost doubled in size from what was originally proposed. Mike Guest, the chairman of the partnership’s business group, said they were concerned about the formation of two separate shopping centres. Traders in North Bar were “already finding it very difficult”.

He added: “The concern is whether people will walk between them – we are all lazy and we tend to go by car and shop in the neighbourhood.

“Visitors may go to both, but generally speaking you go to where you purchase.

“When Boyes and M&S went to Wednesday Market it moved the shopping area from that end of the town.

“Is this going to do a similar thing? We don’t know.”

One of 53 objectors, which include eight retailers, among them Lakeland, Browns and Timpsons, said the scheme was bound to harm the town centre “ultimately causing the closure of numerous shop units which in all likelihood will be the ones owned and run by local people, rather than those run by national retailers with greater financial support”.

Hull Council is also objecting to the scheme.

But the council’s consultant, England and Lyle, said the revised scheme will not have a “significant” adverse effect on the town centre.

The developers claim the scheme will provide 850 jobs which will deliver “major economic regeneration” with “significant associated social benefits”.

They said they had a positive response to exhibitions in the town, particularly to the extra choice of shopping and five-screen cinema. They claim over 80 per cent of written responses were in favour of the scheme.

Planners say the design is acceptable and although the overall impact on the town centre would be higher than anticipated, it would “not have an adverse effect on the viability of the town centre”. Even if it is passed next week, the scheme will still have to be referred to the Secretary of State.