After several tough years, the retail industry is beginning to get back on its feet with several high profile chains managing to post greater profits than have been seen since pre-recession 2008. In turn, this has had a positive effect upon developers, with firms across the country now considering continuing work on sites which were left in limbo thanks to the uncertain economic conditions.
However, while today sees the opening of Whiteley Shopping Centre in Hampshire, one site which has not benefited from this change in fortune is the New Riverside centre in Shrewsbury, Shropshire.
Developers have admitted that it is highly unlikely work will begin on the £150 million giant complex for at least two years if, in fact, the plans are not abandoned entirely.
Guy Shearer of the Shearer Property Group – one of the firms involved in the project – believes that, in the “best case scenario”, construction work would begin on the site in 2015. However, he says he “can’t guarantee” plans for the new shopping centre will be carried out despite the fact all parties are doing their utmost to push the project forward.
He continues; “As everyone knows, the current economic climate is very difficult and no more so than for Britain’s high streets.
“Whilst the UK Commercial Property Trust (UKCPT) have suffered considerable loss of income in the existing schemes from retailers closing down, going into administration or deciding not to renew leases, they continue to support and progress the New Riverside scheme, but naturally this is subject to regular review by their board of directors.
“We continue to work closely with Shropshire Council to drive the project forward in these challenging times.”
UKCPT, the site owners, originally received planning consent for the project in April last year, but factors including the economy and debate with existing retailers have caused the scheme to grind to a halt almost entirely.
Should the new development go ahead, however, the current Riverside centre will be demolished and replaced by a state of the art 225,000 square foot complex. This complex will allow for the integration of Shrewsbury’s two other shopping centres, Pride Hall and Darwin; this method of retailing co-operation has worked very well in cities such as Bristol, so it is hoped that this would revive Shrewsbury’s retail platform. Altogether, the three combined centres would form a complex measuring approximately 480,000 square feet.
Once planning permission was granted, UKCPT signed a pre-let agreement with department store giants Debenhams for a 95,000 square foot retail space, which provides further incentive to push on with the construction phase. The remaining fifty stores, ten restaurants and an ample supply of office space have, as yet, no confirmed interested parties.
Shropshire Council cabinet member for the built environment, Councillor Mal Price, has confirmed the council’s support for the project.
He says; “Shropshire Council, Ignis Asset Management and Shearer Property Group are continuing to work closely together on UKCPT’s New Riverside development.
“The council is assisting UKCPT in assembling the land and property interests that they need to enable the scheme to proceed.”
Do you think the project will be able to go ahead should the retail industry in the UK continue to take positive steps towards full recovery?
Whiteley Shopping Centre Opens its Doors