Blow as John Lewis rules out move to city-centre site

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The UK’s biggest department store has ruled out a city centre site in York, dashing the hopes of developers behind a multi-million pound regeneration project.

John Lewis is set to become part of a new £90m shopping centre and 6,000-seater stadium for York City FC and York City Knights on the outskirts of York if plans are approved.

The owners of the city’s Coppergate Centre, LaSalle UK Ventures Fund, who are behind plans to breathe new life into the surrounding Castle Piccadilly district, have expressed hopes the retail giant would provide a boost to their scheme by choosing a site within the £200m city centre redevelopment.

However, in a letter to planning chiefs at York Council, John Lewis’s property director, Jeremy Collins, has dismissed the possibility of opening a store in the city centre in favour of the proposed Oakgate Ltd development at Monks Cross.

Mr Collins said Castle Piccadilly would not be suitable for the company’s needs as it would take too long to materialise. He also claimed the site would not be suitable for a large department store.

The property director’s letter drew attention to a public inquiry which led to a similar regeneration scheme, known as Coppergate II, being thrown out in 2003.

He wrote: “It is very clear the site has significant challenges. Some eight years after the Land Securities decision, a revised application is still to materialise.

“This would not fit with our strategy for the region and the city. We consider Castle Piccadilly is not available for retail development within a realistic time frame.”

Members of York Council’s cabinet were due to meet last night to discuss plans to enter into a development agreement for the Castle Piccadilly district. The area borders famous landmarks including Clifford’s Tower and the Eye of York, but also incorporates notorious eyesores, such as Ryedale House.

York Council’s cabinet member for city strategy, Coun Dave Merrett, said: “There are other potential significant stores that could site in the Castle Piccadilly redevelopment but we will obviously have to see what happens as far as John Lewis is concerned in terms of the Monks Cross planning application.

“We clearly know that a lot of shops would prefer to be out of town but they don’t always have the opportunity.”