Published on Thursday, 20th April 2017

 

It was very disappointing to hear today that Marks and Spencer’s is to close its Commercial Road store. The council had no advance warning of this decision and so as things stand details on what will happen next are scant, although press reports suggest a food-only store will open in Ocean Park. 

 

Debenham’s has announced that it will close ten stores across the country and with the chain having branches in both Commercial Road and Palmerston Road, there is a real chance that one or the other will be on the hit list.

 

The fragility of Commercial Road as a retail centre is a direct result of the failure to get the Northern Quarter scheme built before the shift to online and out-of-town shopping became as embedded as it now has. High Street retailing in the 2020s and beyond will have to be tied in with leisure activities and in future shop spaces will increasingly be shop window units, with customer orders being placed online. This requires a new approach.

 

The council’s ability to influence events is limited: all the units in the city centre are privately owned and so decisions on rents do not rest with the council; the same applies to the two main car parks at the Cascades and the Tricorn. As ever, the council just doesn’t have millions of pounds to spend. It can however try and secure funding for the new city centre road, which is the key to getting development moving.

 

It’s taken three years to do it, but enough money has now been saved up (an extra £11m) to be able to make a serious bid to government for the remaining cash. If approved, a mixed use regeneration scheme becomes viable. That will still take five years to plan and build though; what happens in the meantime is an open question.

 

Tags: City Centre, Planning