Rugby’s Clock Towers forced to change development plan after failing to attract retailers

A computer-generated image showing how the expanded centre may look
A computer-generated image showing how the expanded centre may look

Rugby’s Clock Towers Shopping Centre has had to change its redevelopment plans after failing to attract retailers into the town.

The centre planned to house a large department store as part of its proposed expansion, but was unable to compete with out-of-town shopping parks.

It now plans to focus on the leisure sector and open several food and drink outlets.

The shopping centre was given permission in January to expand on the former Gala Bingo site.

Clock Towers manager, Tony Spencer said: “The redevelopment is going to be based more on leisure than retail and the reason for that is because it has been difficult to attract retailers into the town centre.

“Retailers have been moving to the out-of-town parks so we have had to adapt the plans. It’s disappointing not to have a big department store here and I’m disappointed for the town as it’s missing out.”

Marks and Spencer recently announced its branch in High Street will close next autumn.

The company will open a store three times the size in Elliott’s Field Retail Park, off Leicester Road.

Mr Spencer said: “Marks and Spencer moving to Elliott’s Field shows how things are changing, and you can see up and down the country that town centres are becoming more leisure-focused rather than retail, so we need to change and adapt.”

A cinema is planned for the ground floor of the development and Mr Spencer said it will help attract a wider audience.

“The people behind the cinema are keen to move in and it will offer films, live sports event and operas,” he said.

“It will really help to bring in a broader audience and it will be part of the night-time economy so that will mean later opening hours.

“We’ve had several meetings and they have been extremely encouraging,” he added.

The shopping centre’s lighting, lifts, floors and signs will also be upgraded if the plans are approved.

A planning application for the redevelopment was submitted this week. Rugby Borough Council is likely to decide in the coming months whether to grant permission.

In a document accompanying the application, developers CBRE and Zerum state: “Given the recent influx of out-of-town retail floorspace available around Rugby, interest in retail floorspace, even with planning permission in place, has been limited.

“As a result, the applicant has taken the step to refocus on the leisure sector and has come up with a Plan B option, the subject of this application. This application focuses primarily on leisure use as this is the only real form of interest being received from the applicants’ agents. “

In August, Cemex and developer JMKA re-submitted their rival proposal to build a supermarket on the same site.

Their plans involve demolishing Cemex House and building a 6,000 sq m food store, with additional retail units and two levels of parking beneath it. The borough council is yet to decide whether to grant planning permission for the proposal.