Rugby’s town centre management company is urging the borough council to take action before approving plans to expand an out-of-town shopping centre.
ugby First has written to council planners saying it needs to put measures in place to protect the town centre from further decline before allowing the second phase of the Elliott’s Field Shopping Park to go ahead.
Shopping park owners Hammerson has lodged plans for a £20 million development on the former Tribune Trading Estate next to Elliott’s Field.
It wants to develop nine new shops targeting furniture and homeware brands selling a range of ‘bulky goods’ including furniture and bathroom and kitchen goods.
Hammerson is also proposing a café/restaurant, approximately 500 car parking spaces and new car and pedestrian links with the existing Elliott’s Field Shopping Park.
However, Rugby First is urging the council to take steps to protect the town centre from its impact “before it is too late”.
In a letter to the council, Rugby First said the decisions to allow Marks and Spencer to move to Elliott’s Fields and Matalan to take over the bowling alley at nearby Junction One had all “tempted customers out of town”.
Rugby First cites a 20 per cent drop in town centre footfall, a doubling of shop unit vacancy levels and a drop in morale of the high street business community as just some of the after-effects one year on.
The letter said: “The town centre is now having to face further expansion to Elliot’s Field along with the creation of another shopping park (and additional free parking) as our high street and town centre continues to suffer and decline.
“We understand the importance of attracting new shops into the borough and preventing leakage, but I would ask that you put this application on hold until the following conditions for the town centre are met:
“1. The town centre vacancy level has dropped to 4 per cent. 2. The investment in the town centre currently through Hall of Fame, public realm and the upgrade of the Clock Towers Shopping Centre is complete. 3. Confirmation that traffic measures around Leicester Road will not cause congestion and deter customers trying to get into the town centre.”
The application will be consider later this year.