Cheshire East Council has responded to Debenhams’ withdrawal from a major town centre development by pumping another half-a-million pounds into the scheme.
The national chain was to have been the anchor tenant of Macclesfield’s 200,000 sq ft Silk Street town centre redevelopment scheme. Retailers in the town have described the decision as a “huge disappointment”.
In June 2013, the authority granted planning permission for the £80m Wilson Bowden Developments retail-and-leisure scheme expected to create more than 1,300 jobs. It is intended to revive the centre of the Cheshire town with the addition of 19 new shops, restaurants, cafes, a multi-screen cinema, ten residential units, a civic space and a multi-storey car park.
Debenhams has refused to comment on its withdrawal from Macclesfield, but the scheme’s other anchor tenant, cinema operator Cineworld, has confirmed its commitment to the project.
“The decision by Debenhams comes as no surprise,” commented Michael Jones, leader of Cheshire East Council, who said it was clear the leisure elements of the scheme have always received overwhelming support. “I have asked my officers to review our position with Wilson Bowden while we focus on these elements of the Silk Street scheme, which we now hope to deliver sooner than originally envisaged.”
Jones confirmed the council was doubling its own funding for the scheme to £1m, to speed up the completion of the new leisure attractions. “To make this happen, I will be adding more resources to our regeneration team in Macclesfield, with a new director of projects and a design board made up of local stakeholders, whose role will be to ensure that the development sits well with the vision for the town’s future,” he added.
“I want to assure residents and businesses that we see Macclesfield as vital to economic growth and prosperity in Cheshire East.
“The regeneration of the town centre remains a top priority for the council, which is why we are moving quickly to accelerate the leisure elements of Silk Street, while we review options to deliver the remainder of the scheme.”
Sue Bowden is manager at Macclesfield Chamber of Commerce. “It is a huge disappointment that this is the outcome of ten years of money and time invested in a scheme that was supposed to revitalise the town centre and give its inhabitants the infrastructure to satisfy its needs and lifestyle locally,” she said.
“Macclesfield town centre has been in limbo and this decision by Debenhams just causes more protracted uncertainty.
“While it is accepted that the retail sector is a changing landscape, we hope that the leisure element of the scheme can move forward and the town’s heritage and culture can be built on and capitalised on,” she added.