Eyesore set for £17m overhaul as council says yes to shopping park

The Frontierland site in Morecambe.
The Frontierland site in Morecambe.
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A new shopping park will be built at one of Morecambe’s biggest eyesores.

City councillors approved plans for a £17m retail complex at the former Frontierland site which could attract big-name stores to Morecambe.

Ironically this comes in a week where the town was named as third worst for shops in the UK based on retail index research.

At the planning meeting on Monday, councillors agreed Morecambe sorely needed the boost the new shopping complex could provide.

Coun Roger Sherlock said: “This site has been an abscess in the side of Morecambe for a decade.

“ I hope it’s a success because Morecambe needs something like this.”

Coun Eileen Blamire, leader of Lancaster City Council, said: “We all want to see a successful top quality development for Morecambe. ”

Coun Janice Hanson said the ball was now in the court of developers Opus North to sign the quality shopping chains to make the centre a success.

She said: “More than 10 years ago the site gained approval for a ‘Freeport’ style development which was never implemented because the retailers could not be found.

“We certainly don’t want that to happen again. Opus have convinced the people of Morecambe that the development will attract top quality retailers, but so far we have had no indication from the developer as to the names.”

“The city council has supported the developer’s vision. “The ball is now with Opus and it’s down to them to make this development one which will make Morecambe proud and not to saddle us with yet another forlorn hope.”

Planning permission has been granted for 13 one or two-storey units for shops, restaurants or cafes plus one kiosk, a three-storey 62-bedroomed hotel (expected to be a Premier Inn), a family pub to replace the Ranch House, 336 car parking spaces and two public art features. It could create more than 500 jobs.

Morrison’s, who own the land, have put in a separate planning request to demolish the Polo Tower.

Council officers said that the “unprecedented” private investment in the site could halt the decline of Morecambe, and create a “united town”.

A planning report had criticised Opus North and site owners Morrison’s for not coming up with a workable plan to prevent traffic congestion and safeguard pedestrians near the new complex.

But council officers said on Monday the traffic issues had been dealt with.

Councillor Andrew Kay, of the Green party, said: “It’s car intensive. It wouldn’t attract me as a tourist, but on balance it’d better than looking at a derelict site.” Evelyn Archer, a Morecambe town councillor and chairman of the Winter Gardens Preservation Trust, is a keen supporter of the project. Mrs Archer 
said after the meeting: “I’m really pleased about the outcome.

“Morecambe deserves this. At least we know that we’ve got approval for it and it will be interesting to see what the new owners will now do with it.”

The green light for the ‘Bay Shopping Park’ came days after a firm of retail property specialists placed Morecambe behind only Dudley and Llanelli as being worst for shops in the UK.

Harper Dennis Hobbs’ research rated towns and cities on the number of empty shops and the proportion of big-name retail chains. They also marked down areas with discount stores, betting shops and payday loan outlets.

Out of a possible 400 points, Morecambe only scored eight.