The battle of the shopping centres is underway in Morecambe after Arndale Centre bosses officially condemned plans for a £17m retail park on the former Frontierland site.
The owners of the Arndale Centre, on Market Street, say proposals to build the new ‘Bay Shopping Park’ on the derelict fairground land could deal a devastating blow to Morecambe town centre.
Northern Ireland-based JAP (Morecambe) LLP, who own the centre, are worried the planned new stores – to include as yet unknown big-name retailers – will pull shoppers away from central Morecambe and the West End.
Developers Opus North’s planning application is expected to go before Lancaster City Council in mid-September.
If given approval, the park will include a mix of well-known high street stores, a 60-bedroomed hotel overlooking Morecambe Bay and seafront restaurants, creating 500 jobs.
The Ranch House bar would be replaced with a new family pub and the Polo Tower pulled down and replaced with a piece of public art.
The scheme has been overwhelmingly supported by the public, with a Visitor survey revealing 90% were in favour of the plans.
But Tom Stokes from TSA Planning, in a letter to Lancaster City Council on behalf of JAP, revealed fears about how the scheme could affect the Arndale Centre and surrounding shops.
He said: “We consider that the nature and scale of the proposal’s retail element is wholly inappropriate given the site’s location and context.
“(It) would undoubtedly have a detrimental impact upon the vitality and viability of existing centres, including Morecambe town centre, should it be permitted.
“Morecambe town centre already (has) extremely high vacancy rates, with 18.5% of units vacant...substantially above the national average.
“To permit retail development outside the town centre would undermine the centre’s retail function.
“It would draw footfall southwards in a shift away from the town centre, which would ultimately compound the existing poor conditions that prevail within the town centre.”
Opus North declined to comment on Mr Stokes’ letter.
The Ilkley-based developer has written to residents this week encouraging people to have their say on the proposals by contacting Lancaster City Council.
A provisional date of September 15 has been given for the planning decision.
Opus North are still in talks with big-name retail chains but a spokesman said they were unable to reveal their identity at this stage.
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