WISBECH: Council report highlights town's significant rating drop as a shopping centre
Story by: JOHN ELWORTHY MORE than one in ten shops in Wisbech are now empty and the town s national rating as a shopping centre has dropped from 382nd in 2003/4 to 511th position last year. The stark picture of retailing in the town is contained in a repo
Story by: JOHN ELWORTHY
MORE than one in ten shops in Wisbech are now empty and the town's national rating as a shopping centre has dropped from 382nd in 2003/4 to 511th position last year.
The stark picture of retailing in the town is contained in a report commissioned by Fenland District Council.
They asked London based planning experts Roger Tym Partners to examine retailing prospects for the town and to advise on changes to the proposed �35 million Cromwell Retail Park shopping and leisure complex.
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Wendy Holland, Fenland's development manager, said Cromwell Park - which includes a cinema and some 151,000 square feet of shops- wants to have unrestricted use on three more of the units they propose to build.
She told Fenland District Council Planning Committee that the developers of the former stadium site needed the restrictions lifted to make the scheme more viable.
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Research by Roger Tym Partners concluded that the cumulative impact of the scheme- plus the changes now proposed- is likely to be significant.
With town centre trading declining and 11.9 per cent of shops vacant- compared to a national average of 11.4 per cent- "the vitality and viability of Wisbech town centre is not assured and the potential impact of any out of town centre retail scheme should not be underestimated".
However Roger Tym Partners claim the retail park would have some "broad positive benefits" including drawing back cash to Wisbech that might go elsewhere". It would also provide the equivalent of 180 full time jobs.
Whilst not possible to quantify the wider benefits of the Cromwell scheme, she felt that it is likely they will offset, to an extent, some of the "negative trade diversion from Wisbech town centre".
Ms Holland told councillors that the planning department found the proposals to extend the shops range at the new complex to be "finely balanced" but concluded that it should be supported and councillors agreed.