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Decision over Swindon Gateway retail park to be taken next week

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Swindon Gateway NorthSwindon Gateway NorthA decision over whether a 75,000 sq ft retail park can be built in the north of Swindon will be taken next week.

Plans have been lodged for the five-unit retail centre to be built on the old Motorola site, on the northernmost entrance to the town, by planning consults Turley, on behalf of Icon Two Ltd.

The 18-acre development would comprise a 30,000 sq ft unit, two 15,000 sq ft units, a 10,000 sq ft unit, and a 5,000 sq ft unit, along with parking for 317 cars.

The applicants say Swindon Gateway North would represent an investment of £17.5m and generate more than 100 new jobs.

In an agreement between the developers and the council, the retail offering would be limited to ‘bulky’ goods, which include DIY home products, garden centre products, furniture, carpets, floor coverings and tiles, lighting, beds, soft furnishings / textiles, electrical goods, gas products, motor vehicle accessories and cycles, office supplies & accessories, pets & pet products, bathroom fixtures and furnishings, and kitchens and kitchen equipment.

The list of specifically excluded items include giftware, cookware, seasonal products, books and magazines, confectionary, and home ornamental products.

The scheme has the backing of current occupants Aldi and David Lloyd Leisure, for the increased footfall the development will bring.

But the proposal is opposed by Council’s regeneration company, Forward Swindon, and by In-Swindon Business Improvement District, which represents town centre traders, citing the impact on town centre trade.

In a letter signed by 61 town centre businesses, In-Swindon says granting the proposal would conflict with the council’s Town Centre First policy. The same standard letter has also been sent, individually, by the HQs of Ask Italian, Cineworld, Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Morrisons, Regent Circus Management and Virgin Media.

Objections have also been received from UK Commercial Property Trust, the owners of The Parade Shopping Centre and Regent Circus, and from FI Real Estate Management, managers of the Brunel of the Brunel Shopping Centre.

Businesses at Havelock Street and Market Street have also objected.

In a report to the planning committee, the council’s own Forward Planning Officer has advised that the relatively poor performance of Swindon town centre is illustrated by its lower “VenueScore” ranking. Swindon town centre currently finds itself in 72nd position in the UK rankings, falling from 55th position in 2007 and 65th in 2010.

And councillors have been asked to consider that in 2015 the retail vacancy rate in Swindon town centre was 17.4 percent – up from 16.7 percent in 2010.

Plans for the development will be considered by Swindon Borough Council at a meeting on Tuesday, July 11 and are recommended for approval by the planning officer.