New M5 shopping mall plan could 'rip heart' out of town centres
A PROPOSED shopping centre by the M5 could “rip the heart out of Stroud” and threaten the viability of Gloucester’s multi-million pound King’s Square development.
Developers have indicated they would be willing to develop a site next to Junction 13 for retail and leisure use.
But Stroud District Councillor David Drew (Lab, Farmhill and Paganhill) has spoken out against the idea.
“I understand that junction 13 is being suggested for a major retail park that would rip the heart out of Stroud,” he told Stroud Town Councillors on Monday.
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“We have to be on our guard that this doesn’t happen.
“It’s speculative at the moment.
“But because the planning process is in disarray we have to be aware that developers will try it on.
“There’s every planning reason why it shouldn’t happen but we know that doesn’t necessarily turn out that way.”
Peter Gilbert of Stroud District Council’s planning team confirmed the council had been approached by a developer on behalf of the landowner, concerning a site adjacent to the A419 between Junction 13 of the M5 and Chipmans Platt roundabout near Eastington.
“They suggested that the land was suitable for further industrial use, a degree of retail, perhaps a sort of outlet centre, and leisure related activities,” he said.
Mr Gilbert stressed that the submission by an agent on behalf of development firm St Modwen was one of 2,000 comments received by the council during its consultation on its draft Core Strategy.
“The council has not considered it in any way and it is certainly not something that we are planning or suggesting.”
The site is just nine miles from Gloucester city centre and 23 miles from Cribbs Causeway shopping centre in Bristol.
Mr Drew, former MP for Stroud, has already spoken out against proposals to build 1,500 houses at Nupend and warned that developers may try to build a shopping centre as part of any housing development.
An out-of-town shopping centre would affect Stroud’s town centre, but also Gloucester and Cheltenham, he suggested.
Coun Paul James, leader of Gloucester City Council, agreed that a retail development on the M5 would affect Gloucester.
“We would be strongly opposed to anything that might prejudice development in the centre of Gloucester,” he said.
“With the state of the economy, things like the King’s Quarter development are fairly marginal in terms of their viability.
“Anything that sucks away tenants would be something that we would oppose and could potentially impact on the viability of it going ahead.”
“The Government has made clear in its planning guidelines that there should be a ‘town centre first’ approach to retail.
“So anything that could be accommodated within the town or city centre should not be allowed in out of town locations.”
Town centre bosses are confident Cheltenham can hold its own if the proposed shopping mall becomes a reality.
Cheltenham shopping boss Martin Quantock is not concerned and thinks it could bring more trade to the town.
He said: “The outlet village at Swindon is classed as a tourist destination. They get coachloads of people going there and they don’t just stay at the outlet village. They go into the town as well.”
He said Cheltenham has already shown it could deal with competition after concern the opening of Gloucester Quays and Bristol’s Cabot Circus would take trade away.
“As far as I am concerned, Cheltenham is strong enough to be able to attract customers to the town. I’m sure it would withstand any competition which opened on the edge of the motorway,” he said.
“Cheltenham is a package, with its parks and gardens, festivals and cafe culture. If you come to Cheltenham you are not just buying into the shops, you are buying into the whole environment.
“No shopping centre on the edge of a motorway could ever provide that.”
The developers were not available to comment.