A Primark store could be part of a new shopping park in Morecambe.
The clothing giant’s wish to open a shop in our resort was revealed as Lancaster City Council looked set to approve plans for a £17m retail park in the West End.
But developers of the former Frontierland site face a race against time to deal with safety fears over extra traffic which could scupper the entire scheme.
Lancaster City Council planning committee will meet next Monday (November 10) to make a final decision on the ‘Bay Shopping Park’ project.
Council officers have recommended the plans should be approved.
But, unless developers Opus North and owners Morrisons come up with a safer route for pedestrians crossing the road onto the new complex, the scheme will be thrown out.
After a major investigation, a council report said “the balance is weighted towards a negative conclusion” unless road safety worries are dealt with.
It also revealed that Primark, who are set to open a store at the former Lancaster Market in 2015, are one of several retail chains to have “general interest” in Morecambe.
The others are Mothercare (baby goods), Sporting Pro (sports store), and Store 21 and Paparazzi (fashion outlets).
Premier Inn is also on the list, fuelling rumours they could operate a planned hotel on the boarded-up former Wild West theme park, which closed in 2000.
An Opus North survey in 2013 asked residents if they would like to see Debenhams and Marks and Spencer open in Morecambe, sparking speculation they might be part of the Bay Shopping Park.
But the Yorkshire-based developer has not confirmed any names of shops which might occupy the ex-fairground site.
There are no indications Debenhams or M&S are interested in Morecambe at this stage.
The council report says this makes the development “speculative” and “a risk”, fearing the site could be filled by “discount retailers and fast food outlets”.
But a spokesman for Opus North called for “a strong decision to approve the application” next Monday as this would allow them to “get on with signing retailers”.
“From the outset, Opus has worked to demonstrate to potential retail tenants that this scheme will be delivered,” he said.
“Gaining planning consent is the first and most fundamental step towards making Bay Shopping Park a reality. We have provided Lancaster City Council with all the information it has asked for.”
The council report also dismissed objections by British Land, developers of a planned retail scheme in Lancaster, saying a shopping park at Frontierland would not have a “significant harmful impact” on Lancaster city centre.
But fears of Arndale Centre owners JAP (Morecambe) LLP Ltd that the Bay Shopping Park could deal a harmful blow to Morecambe town centre were given more credence.
The report said the plans could “significantly reduce” the chance for the town centre to re-establish itself.
Highways chiefs from Lancashire County Council have raised “serious concerns” over extra traffic, especially queues at the Central Drive roundabout.
They cited 18 recent road accidents near the site, a third of which involved pedestrians and cyclists. The county wants the scheme to be more pedestrian-friendly and for a new road crossing to provide safe access into the shopping park.
The report also revealed Opus North looked at five other sites in Morecambe – the Arndale Centre, West View Car Park (between Northumberland Street and Skipton Street), the Festival Market, the Bubbles and Dome site, and The Battery – before settling on Frontierland.
This was due to Government law which says other sites must be assessed before councils can green light a development on the edge of a town.
Council officers originally deemed the Festival Market the best site for the shopping park, but the report said Lancaster City Council does not want to redevelop the market at the moment.
The meeting is at 10.30am at Lancaster Town Hall on November 10. All welcome.
The Bay Shopping park includes:
13 one or two storey units for shops/restaurants/cafes plus one kiosk
A three-storey 62-bedroomed hotel
A family pub to replace the Ranch House
336 car parking spaces (25 of which are for disabled people)
Two public art features.
A new traffic signal controlled junction with a pedestrian crossing at the entrance
The scheme could create between 500 and 700 jobs
The council received 130 letters of support for the plans and 13 letters objecting.
Opus North has offered £200,000 to pay for a scheme to direct people to and from the town centre.
Building materials used would be a mixture of coloured render, white, grey and green metal cladding, buff and blue brick, timber cladding and metal roofs.