Major retailers have pledged a further £15 million to a major redevelopment in Preston city centre.Advertisement
Primark, TK Maxx and Vue Cinema have said they will put the money on the table as part of the plan to bring a cinema and restaurant complex to the Fishergate Shopping Centre.
Owners of the shopping centre Benson Elliot have also dangled the incentive of an additional £600,000-a-year income for Preston City Council in business rates from what they say will be a fully occupied shopping centre if the council give the plans approval.
The shopping centre revealed in September last year it had struck a £25m deal with Vue for the cinema to move into the former TJ Hughes shop at the back of the centre.
More than 250 new jobs are also due to be created as part of the Fishergate plan.
Peter Cornforth, director of retail at Benson Elliot, said: “Our plans enable a positive response to the challenges facing retailers and offer the major brands at Fishergate and beyond the opportunity to plan for the future. This is vital for Preston’s future as a shopping destination.
“Customers everywhere now expect great quality stores and brands, decent places to meet and enjoy something to eat or just relax and chat over a coffee, or spend the afternoon with the kids catching a movie. That is what this project will deliver. It will bring people with spending power into the city.
“The economic benefits are really important – many councils around the country are entering a time of huge financial challenge and Preston City Council is no different.
“The jobs this will create will also have a spin-off far beyond the centre, putting money into local workers’ pockets to be spent in Preston’s economy. It will also increase visitor numbers, all of whom have spending power.
“We also believe the development will send out a loud and strong message to other potential private investors that Preston is open for business and that it welcomes investment from all quarters.”
“The plan is in place, the cinema operator is in place, the money is here and the feedback we’ve received from the public, city businesses and traders, city politicians and Preston’s MP has been 100 per cent in favour.
“It is great that everyone shares our vision and wants the city to prosper. This is a real opportunity for Preston to shine.”
Related: Plans for Fishergate Shopping Centre revamp are well received
The revealing of how much extra the city council would receive in annual business rates – they already net £2.7m a year from the Fishergate centre and its associated businesses – has been timed for release just weeks after the city council revealed from 2020 it will receive no funding from central government in terms of a revenue support grant and have to rely solely on business rates.
Keith Mitchell, manager of the Fishergate Shopping Centre, said: “It’s important we provide our shoppers with places to eat, drink and relax to meet friends and family as part of their shopping trip, to enhance their overall social experience and present them with an engaging alternative to the convenience of internet shopping.
“We want to encourage people to spend and enjoy more time in the centre and the city. Reinforcing the city’s vitality and viability is crucial and this is what we plan to do.”
Plans for the shopping centre could be discussed at the March planning committee.
Councillor Martyn Rawlinson, cabinet member for finance at Preston City Council, said: “It’s up to the planning committee to decide whether this is the right development in the right location.
“The business rates are collected by Preston Council but go back to central government for redistribution and this government gives me no confidence whatsoever that this money would come back to Preston Council.
“Jobs and private investment will always be welcome in Preston. Preston Labour however, are leading on a ground-breaking Community Wealth Building policy which is designed to trap money in the local economy by using the spending and investment power of local ‘anchor’ institutions like councils, the university and other public funds. A large percentage of spend with multi-national companies leaks out of the local economy into the pockets of international shareholders.”
What do you think of Benson Elliots comments? Do you use the Fishergate centre? Let us know your views in the comments below