Ashchurch fields earmarked for retail outlet and garden centre
A £30 MILLION retail outlet centre could be built near Tewkesbury, creating 1,000 jobs in the county.
Developer Robert Hitchins Ltd wants to transform the 48-acre site, just off junction 9 of the M5, into a retail outlet centre with up 70 shops offering clothing, sports and leisure gear and household items. Alongside it, there would be a garden centre which would be similar to the size of Webbs of Wychbold in Worcestershire. There would be parking spaces for 2,000 cars.
Hitchins' proposals are in the early stages but, if the plans are approved, the centre could be open in just over three years' time.
The company's property and development director, Christopher Haslam, said: "This scheme is very much in its infancy and we're keen to get local feedback before we go as far as submitting an outline planning application. The reaction to the scheme so far has been extremely positive. It would bring up to 1,000 much-needed full and part-time jobs to the area, as well as another 175 jobs during the construction phase in a challenging economic climate."
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Hitchins said research showed shoppers would travel from up to an hour away, principally from the Midlands.
Mr Haslam added that an important part of the scheme would be working with local businesses and tourism bosses to ensure the proposed scheme benefited all.
He said: "The experience of outlet centres is that they bring extra trade to the area and complement the local high street. We are very keen to work with Tewkesbury to promote the retail outlet centre and the town as a joint leisure destination. We would wish to incorporate a tourist information point at the outlet centre, and provide a subsidised shuttle bus to encourage shoppers to visit the abbey, the riverside, the alleyways and Tewkesbury High Street."
A public exhibition will take place soon on a date to be announced to seek people's views.
David Bloxham, for Tewkesbury Chamber of Commerce, said: "This appears to be an exciting project which promises to bring new business and investment to the area.
"Any permitted development must, however, focus upon the needs of the town and its residents and upon bringing tangible commercial benefits to the High Street, its independent retailers and other established local businesses."
Sue Lambert, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses in Tewkesbury, said: "Everybody's very positive about it. It's excellent news for the town in terms of jobs, investment and opportunities to market it further afield.
"I know there are issues about highways and drainage. There's work that needs to be done but assuming those things can be resolved, it should be good."
Nickie Philipson-Stow, who runs children's clothes shop The Orange Pig in Tewkesbury High Street, said: "Thousands of Chinese people go to the centre in Bicester and stay in the town for the weekend. I think it might be good for Tewkesbury."
She added it had been a missed opportunity for Tewkesbury in the 1990s when the RAM Euro outlet centre planned for the town was rejected. And she believed Hitchins' development would not contain small independent specialist shops like hers, so people would still come into the town centre to use them.