Would a new shopping park in Morecambe have a major impact on Lancaster?
The city’s top retail brains don’t think so and have instead called for Lancaster and Morecambe to work together to ensure both thrive as shopping centres in a post-M6 link road future.
This comes days before Lancaster City Council meet to make a final decision on plans for a new Morecambe seafront complex of shops, restaurants, cafes, a hotel and a pub.
Developers British Land, who plan their own multi-million pound shopping overhaul in the Canal Corridor North area of Lancaster, have objected to the ‘Bay Shopping Park’ scheme at the old Frontierland theme park – worried it would directly compete with their own project.
But Jerry North, manager of St Nicholas Arcades and vice-chairman of Lancaster’s Business Improvement District (BID), thinks both could work independently.
Mr North said: “I think it’s great to see that land on the prom is being developed.
“I don’t see it as a threat to Lancaster at all. I think it’s up to the city centre to look after itself.”
Paul Cusimano, who runs Joseph & Co clothing store on North Road, has also backed the Morecambe development.
But Mr Cusimano, chairman of the Lancaster BID, believes the choice of shops at a Bay Shopping Park should not compete with the city’s retail offering and should instead “complement each other”.
A Lancaster City Council report revealedthis week that Bay Shopping Park developers Opus North had entered talks with Primark, who will open a new store in 2015 at the former Lancaster Market.
The clothing giant showed a “general interest” in Morecambe, says the report, and could be in line for a spot in the £17m resort complex.
Confirmed names of stores for the Morecambe development are a closely-guarded secret. Many Morecambrians are hoping for Debenhams and Marks & Spencer, but would certainly welcome Primark – a popular chain with fashion shoppers due to its budget clothing and catwalk trends.
Top retail chains such as Boots, Argos, Next and Sainsbury’s currently have outlets in both Lancaster and Morecambe, so there is evidence that some retailers can operate successfully in both towns.
But Mr Cusimano said: “I can’t imagine Primark would make a big investment in Morecambe.
“One Primark is sufficient for both populaces. In reality, how long does it take to get from Morecambe to Lancaster?
“I would hope the developers look at Lancaster and seek to complement what we have.
“The Boots in the Arndale is smaller than the one in Lancaster. There used to be a Boots on Regent Road in the West End too and that wasn’t sustainable.
“We’re happy that Primark is coming to Lancaster because of the current leakage of shoppers it pulls to Preston.”
Jerry North agreed. “I don’t know where the Primark thing has come from. I can’t see that they would have interest in Morecambe as well as Lancaster.”
Lancaster City Council’s report said a shopping park in Morecambe would have only a small impact on Lancaster shopping centre’s “vitality and viability”, of 8.1%.
Mr Cusimano said: “If Lancaster was to lose 8%, hopefully with everybody working together, and when the link road opens, you can bring that loss back.
“In general, I would like to see Lancaster and Morecambe get on better. Lancaster has things Morecambe hasn’t, and vice versa. We can help each other.”
Talks continue between the local authority and British Land, described as “positive and ongoing” in the council report. But there is still no planning application on the table.
“By the time both of these schemes happen, hopefully the link road will be built and the current traffic problems will be alleviated,” said Mr Cusimano.
“I hope when British Land do put their plans in, they are in keeping with the rest of the city.
“And I hope whatever happens (at Frontierland) it’s the right decision for Morecambe.”
Vicky Lofthouse, manager of Lancaster and District Chamber of Commerce, has also given the Bay Shopping Park a thumbs up.
“The development is a must,” she said.
“I don’t think either Lancaster or Morecambe town centres should see it as a threat.”
Mrs Lofthouse also said the success of the Lancaster BID, where businesses help pay for improvements to the city centre, could also rub off on Morecambe, which has its own BID in the pipeline.
The planning meeting where a decision will be made on the proposed Bay Shopping Park is set for Monday (November 10) at Lancaster Town Hall at 10.30am.