A multi-million pound expansion of Rugby’s main shopping centre is “just what this town needs”, according to the boss of the Clock Towers.
Plans totalling around £25 million to revamp and extend the Clock Towers Shopping Centre to include a department store were given the go-ahead by Rugby Borough Council’s planning committee on Wednesday night last week.
The expansion would include new shops, cafes, restaurants and a cinema.
Tony Spencer, manager of the Clock Towers, said: “I’m delighted. This is probably one of the best things to happen here for a long while.
“It’s just what this town needs - some major investment.
“There’s been a lot of hard work to get us to this stage. Many people didn’t think it could be done but we’ve shown that it can.”
The plans would see the 40-year-old shopping centre expanded onto adjacent land belonging to Cemex and the former Gala Bingo site which is currently a car park.
Cemex House would be demolished as part of the plans but new offices would be built on the site for the company.
Shoppers would get to the new shops, food outlets and cinema via Evreux Way with a connection to the existing shopping centre to the corner by B&M and Poundland.
There would also be new lifts, as well as a full refurbishment inside the original building.
The number of car parking spaces would remain the same.
Mr Spencer said: “It would be pointless to have a big new shiny expansion and not do anything inside.
“Back in 2007 we were looking at refurbishing the centre but everything got put on hold during the financial crash.
“The last major refurb was in 1994 and now we’re 20 years down the line. It’s a 40-year-old centre. It needs a bit of love and care putting into it.”
According to Mr Spencer, work will now begin on attracting retailers onto the site.
He said: “We will be going out to all the major retailers, department stores, cinema and food and beverage operators that could operate there.
“We’ll be talking to big names but we won’t be able to say anything until they are signed on the dotted line.”
Last year CBRE Lionbrook, the company which owns Clock Towers, launched a legal challenge against the redevelopment of Elliott’s Field Retail Park to include Debenhams.
A decision following the court case in December is due imminently.
Clock Towers had said last year during a public exhibition showcasing the plans that it wouldn’t be “commercially viable” to continue with its extension if Elliott’s Field was redeveloped.
This week Mr Spencer said: “We’re waiting for the judicial review decision which is a key element.
“We’ve always said it will be difficult to have the two schemes. It will be down to the owners to make that final decision.
“We are committed. We wouldn’t be spending this kind of money just to walk away at the end with nothing to show for it.”
Cllr Craig Humphrey, leader of Rugby Borough Council, said that any enhancement to the town is welcomed.
He said: “It’s great news but it’s a long journey before we see anything happen with this development.
“Hand on heart, now that expectations have been raised, I hope they can deliver this scheme.”
Cllr Humphrey said he believes that both redevelopments at Elliott’s Field and the Clock Towers can happen.
He added: “Competition is healthy. I don’t want to a derelict town centre come 2015 with the Rugby World Cup when we’ll have thousands of tourists coming to town.
“Anything that adds value and increases our retail offer should be welcomed.”
Rugby First said it is looking forward to working closely with the Clock Towers as the plans develop.
Aftab Gaffar, managing director, said: “A development of this nature is fantastic news for the town and its future and has the potential to make a real difference to the local economy through increased footfall, spend, vibrancy and awareness. It is excellent news for local businesses and those that shop, live and work in the town centre.”