More than 200 jobs will be created as part of multi-million pound plans to bring budget clothing giant Primark to Lancaster’s former indoor market hall.
Allied (Lancaster) Limited, the owners of Marketgate Shopping Centre since January 2008, confirmed the chain will move in early next year, becoming the city’s largest retail store at 50,000 sq ft.
The news follows months of negotiations and has divided opinion among shoppers, businesses and residents – with many welcoming the economic boost and retail addition to the city while others are unhappy with the choice of store for a flagship location.
Planning permission has already been granted for the reconfiguration of the old market hall and building work could start as early as Easter.
The new enlarged site, which includes building over Gillison’s Lane, will also encompass a number of the units currently facing the market hall to create an extended building with a frontage onto Marketgate/Cornmarket.
The market hall was handed over to Allied by the city council last year, costing taxpayers £13m to surrender the 99-year building lease and in compensation to traders.
Darren Sharpe, director of Allied Freehold Property Trust Ltd, said the new shop is expected to create around 200 full and part-time jobs.
He said: “The new store will dramatically improve the retail landscape in Lancaster city centre.
“It will benefit the whole of the city centre, not just Marketgate Shopping Centre, and will stem the leakage from the city.
“A store of this size will create both permanent and part-time employment opportunities and substantially increase the footfall and spend throughout the whole city centre.”
David Goodman of Marketgate Shopping Centre, son of the late shopping centre developer and visionary Everard Goodman, said: “This prestigious and significant new development to Lancaster’s retail offer will benefit both Lancaster as a destination as well as the people of Lancaster as a whole.
“The creation of new employment opportunities, a vibrant destination centre and the confidence of a premier brand such as Primark should give confidence to the people of Lancaster.”
Dozens of people have taken to social media to give their views on the announcement – both positive and negative.
On Twitter, @moorby123 said: “So the rumours are finally true...There’s going to be a Primark in Lancaster! Could shopping get any worse in Lancaster?!”
@P_Smithson said: “A load of small independent stalls going out of business for that monstrosity.”
@LEMullagh wrote: “Really not impressed about Primark moving to Lancaster. Fast fashion is bad. Prob ‘good’ for retail side of city, but still...
@TheNameIsTurner said: “Primark at Lancaster Market site. I couldn’t be more deflated.”
@S_J_Price wrote: “Primark confirmed as taking over Lancaster Market; good for jobs, bad for everything else...ever.”
But @davidwhitaker40 said: “Lancaster to get a Primark at last. A great anchor store for the city.”
@AimeeKitching_ said: “Primark coming to Lancaster is the best thing to ever happen!
@PhilAlmonic said: “My heart would love a #Debenhams in #Lancaster but right now my head and wallet welcome the news about #Primark”
@jannyjinny wrote: “A very popular store and good for Lancaster, will keep and attract shoppers here and create jobs.”
@VMOVE_limited said: “Wonderful news! Lancaster is getting a Primark. The students will be really happy :) #newbusiness”
@LeeBraley wrote: “Primark is coming to Lancaster! Bring on the cheap clothes!”
And on Facebook, Anna Branson said: “Fantastic news.”
Tony Dodgson from Studio Arts said: “Great for the city all round.”
Nigel O’Donnell wrote: “At least something good might come from the shambles that is the Lancaster Market, a total failure from start to finish!”
Hayley Willis wrote: “I for one cannot wait, it will bring people from further a field in to Lancaster to shop, boosting the local economy which will help the local families.”
Fiona Sallis said: “Great news for Lancaster economy.”
And Robert Andrew Knight said: “Lancaster needs a Primark. If this is true it could regenerate Lancaster as a place to shop, may even attract some other big names into Lancaster, which will bring people into Lancaster to shop, so local people will benefit in the long run, jobs and money coming into Lancaster...!”
Lancaster’s business sector has also reacted with positivity to the news.
Vicky Lofthouse, manager of Lancaster District Chamber of Commerce, said: “It’s such great news for Lancaster and the district, an enhancement to Lancaster’s shopping experience and a reason for Lancaster district residents to shop local instead of in our neighbouring cities.”
Suzi Bunting, Lancaster Business Improvement District manager, said: “It is excellent news that such an established high street retailer wishes to invest in Lancaster and this could be the first of many ‘big’ new arrivals to our city.”
Jerry North, St Nicholas Arcades centre manager, said: “I think this is fantastic for Lancaster.
“So many of our customers have been crying out for a Primark and this will help keep people shopping in the city.
“The good thing is that those people who stay locally will then take advantage of our other shops.”
Coun Janice Hanson, Lancaster City Council’s cabinet member with responsibility for economic regeneration and planning, said: “Primark’s investment will help to rejuvenate the city centre’s overall look and feel, encourage more visitors into the town and generate much-needed employment opportunities for local people.”