Rugby retail park extension approved - The Rugby Observer

Rugby retail park extension approved

Andy Morris 1st Dec, 2016   0

OUT-of-town shopping is set to grow after an extension to Elliott’s Field was approved by Rugby Borough Council – sparking fears about the future of the town centre.

The retail park’s owners Hammerson will invest £20million to create nine new furniture and homeware shops, a restaurant and 500 parking spaces on the neighbouring former Tribune Trading Estate – creating around 120 new jobs.

But town centre traders fear Rugby will become a ‘ghost town’ – with nearly one in ten units there currently vacant, and charity shops recently joining the exodus begun by high-street giants such as Marks and Spencer and Burton when the revamped retail park reopened with new stores around a year ago.

Aftab Gaffar of town centre management company Rugby First said the development would have a major impact on the town centre, which was still feeling the impact of the Elliott’s Field upgrade one year on.

He said: “The town centre has just passed a fragile period and any further out of town development could mean further losses of shops and investment.

“Since Elliott’s Field reopened, town centre footfall has dropped every month by an average of 20 per cent, customer spend has fallen, vacancy levels have increased, consumer confidence is low and we have lost some major retailers from the town centre.

“We are beginning to see some signs of recovery with the opening of national retailers Pep & Co and the Edinburgh Woollen Mill. The new World Rugby Hall of Fame and the Town Centre action plan, which includes town centre branding and the public realm strategy, are also likely to have a positive impact, although it is too early to see what that is likely to be at this point.”

The new shops at Elliott’s field will focus on furniture, floor coverings, household textiles and bathroom and kitchen furniture. DFS, Furniture Village, Tapi, Sofology and Dwell are understood to be among them.

Thomas Cochrane from Hammerson welcomed the Council’s decision.

He said: “Building on our recent £35 million investment at Elliott’s Field Shopping Park, this additional £20 million investment will attract new retailers into Rugby that complement the town’s current offer and will provide valuable new employment opportunities.

“The council’s own studies show that Rugby loses the majority of its market share in homeware goods to competitors outside the borough.

“Our proposals are specifically targeted to address this gap in the market and respond to growing customer demand for greater retail choice.”

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