A retail centre owner is objecting to a rival’s multi-million pound plan to expand the Silverlink complex, claiming the scheme puts North Tyneside’s regeneration at risk.
Property giant The Crown Estate has submitted a planning application to extend the Silverlink Shopping Park, potentially creating 50 new construction jobs.
The application details how the former Travelodge site opposite the park will be converted into a new retail area, with 102,000sqft of space split into four units, the largest of which would be earmarked for a flagship Next Home and Garden store.
And a specific proposal in the application – which has been welcomed by North Tyneside mayor Norma Redfearn – would see The Crown Estate work with the council to deliver two training packages, creating almost 50 new construction jobs for local young people.
Now, however, NewRiver Retail – owners of Wallsend’s Forum Shopping Centre and The Beacon Centre in North Shields – has offered a stark warning that the regeneration of North Tyneside’s town centres will be put at risk if the Silverlink complex plans are approved.
NewRiver Retail said experts GL Hearn are predicting an annual loss of £1.1m and £3.5m in trade in Wallsend and North Shields respectively, should the plans be allowed to go forward.
The key town centre investors have made a detailed representation to the council urging them to think very carefully about the consequences of an expansion in out-of-town shopping for fragile and recovering local town centres.
The company believes that the Silverlink planning application should be refused when it comes up for decision on Tuesday, February 17.
Allan Lockhart, property director at NewRiver said: “Taking spending power out of the town centres will reduce the willingness of retailers to open in Wallsend and North Shields.
“This in turn reduces choice to local shoppers whom may not have access to a car to drive to a large out of centre retail park.”
“We have had a really excellent working relationship with the Elected Mayor of North Tyneside and the council in driving forward the regeneration of Wallsend town centre.
“After many long years where the town was starved of vital investment, we have been able to deliver the brand new library and Customer First Centre in partnership with the council as well as a substantial modernisation of The Forum Shopping Centre.
“New retailers have been attracted and footfall has increased.
“The next stage is to deliver the recently approved Aldi foodstore along with a Burger King drive-thru restaurant and Wetherspoon public house.
“We have more ideas to improve Wallsend even further and also start a separate regeneration programme in North Shields.
“However, our ability and willingness to invest further is dependent on the council maintaining a clear policy that seeks to protect and promote town centres over damaging out of town retail development.
“Whilst the council is rightly supportive of job creation and on the face of it the Silverlink proposal will offer new jobs, the net increase is only likely to be short term as job losses will occur in the town centres as a result of trade diversion.”
“Local councils up and down the country have taken a clear stance against out of town developments because they recognise that trade, jobs and investment in town centres are undermined.
“Both Wallsend and North Shields are recognised by the council in its policy as town centres that should enjoy special protection because they are vulnerable.
“The very real danger is that recent progress could be reversed if the Silverlink planning application is approved.”
A spokesman for The Crown Estate said: “These proposals, which are consistent with emerging local planning strategy, have been recommended for approval by officers who have noted specifically in their report to members that the proposed development ‘will not have a significant adverse impact on the vitality or viability of the town centres’.”
“Our proposals will provide space for the expansion of an existing Silverlink tenant, Next, as well as three further large footprint units which will be let too bulky goods retailers, such as furniture and homeware stores, which typically don’t occupy town centre properties. As such, the plans would have little impact on other retail locations in the area, create hundreds of new jobs, a youth employment programme, and also facilitate improvements to highways infrastructure which will benefit the regeneration of the wider Silverlink and Cobalt area.”