Fears over retail park

Following an emergency meeting of the executive of the Berwick Chamber of Trade & Commerce, I am writing directly to the Guild of Berwick Freemen to state some serious concerns regarding the proposed new Retail Park at Loaning Meadows (planning reference 18/01184/FUL).

Friday, 20th April 2018, 9:00 am

Please accept this letter as our initial informed view, we will be consulting full membership on this matter over the next few weeks and will update you on any points where our view and opinions develop.

We sincerely hope that the views of the existing business community will be heard by the Guild of Freeman and that these will be given due consideration.

Our initial points are as follows:

1. In contradiction to the Retail Assessment included with the planning application, we believe that this development will have a significant detrimental impact on the town centre.

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This impact will manifest itself by reduced footfall in the town centre as the development will encourage more local shoppers to visit the new out-of-town development.

This will have a knock-on effect of more businesses closing and more empty shops appearing.

The town centre and, in particular, Marygate already has a significant number of empty units.

This development will exasperate the problem and, as a result, will make Marygate, in particular, unattractive to visitors and tourists with a subsequent negative impact on the local economy.

2. The Retail Assessment claims that the new Food Warehouse and Home Bargains store will complement the existing Iceland and Home Bargains stores located on Marygate.

We challenge this statement and we would expect the potential closure of those stores on Marygate if the application is approved and following natural breaks in the appropriate leases and contracts and with the incentive of lower overheads (rent and rates).

3. Berwick Chamber of Trade would support a broadening and diversification of the retail offering in Berwick.

We understand that you are still seeking interest in two of the units, but where you have firm interest those proposed retailers are not offering any diversification at all. Just more of the same but on a bigger scale.

4. The Retail Assessment suggests that Berwick loses retail trade to the larger centres of Edinburgh and Newcastle.

We accept that this may be correct, but we don’t accept that the proposed new retailers will have any impact on that at all and it is unlikely to attract anyone from those areas just because we have a larger Home Bargains store and a Food Warehouse.

5. Berwick and its town centre needs more people; visitors, tourists and residents.

Your proposed development will, in our opinion, accelerate the problems in the town centre, which will detract further from the attractiveness of the town.

Increasing the number of residents through additional housing would have a positive impact on Berwick and its town centre. We believe that using the land under discussion for housing would bring significant positive benefit to all concerned.

We have had limited time to read and digest all the documentation, but we feel that it is important to highlight our initial concerns as soon as possible.

We wish the economy of Berwick to grow, but we don’t feel that this planned development is the right solution.

We believe that it will have a significant detrimental impact on the town centre, especially with the retailers that have expressed interest in moving there. They add nothing extra to the current retail offering and worse, currently occupy the two largest retail sites in the town centre – it is almost inevitable they will vacate in time as the squeeze on retail margins continues.

Filling these sites, we believe, will be a near impossible task in the retail landscape of the future for a market town.

Stephen Scott

Secretary, Berwick Chamber of Trade