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Tuesday, 23 December 2014

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Big retailers want to cash in on Carlisle

Major retailers are interested in cashing in on Carlisle’s shopping scene – if they can find the right place to do it.

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Plans: The draft City Centre Development Framework gives options for change within Carlisle city centre over the next 15 years

Key economic players say big names are keeping close tabs on potential emerging opportunities in the city centre.

That interest is a major factor in a landmark proposal that could see Rickergate transformed into a retail and leisure hub – possibly bulldozing the towering Civic Centre in the process.

Plans have been drawn up after an independent analysis forecast that Carlisle will need 200,000sq ft of non-food shopping space between now and 2030.

The figure – which represents an area about half the size of The Lanes shopping centre – is based on economic trends and population growth, along with existing interest.

Carlisle City Council chief executive Jason Gooding says the authority is being approached by “all sorts of developers with all sorts of ideas”.

He told The Cumberland News: “We’ve been approached by developers on behalf of major retailers who want to come to the city but need the right kind of space for the type of development they want to put in place.

“It’s not just about capacity. It’s about having the type of space that’s needed.”

Proposals for Rickergate have been drawn up aspart of the next Carlisle Local Plan, a blueprint of what might be built and where,the latest phase of consultation on which started this week.

One option includes demolishing the rotunda section of the Civic Centre, where the city council’s chamber sits, with a three-storey 89,000sq ft anchor store for the new development, along with three retail units and a 370-space multi-storey car park, where the public car park is currently.

The second option would see the 11-storey main tower section of the Civic Centre go as well, creating the department store but with five other units and a 450-space car park on that side of the street.

This option would give the full 200,000sq ft of spaceneeded. The first would fall just short of that figure.

Proposals show there could be up to 10 new shop units on the opposite side of the street, including where the magistrates’ court now stands and potentially three restaurants, including the Adriano’s site.

Thirty-one flats could also be built in Corporation Road, backing on to the courts and old fire station site.

Mr Gooding says the proposals drawn up are for what’s necessary on the back of a retail study and consultation. This looked at which area would be best suited to a new development that would protect the city centre from the threat of out-of-town development.

And he insists the demand for new shopping space is there, adding: “The retail capacity study is not something the city council has done because it wants to justify an interesting-looking development in this part of the city or knocking down the Civic Centre.

“The ideas are responding to the demand that’s been identified for another 200,000sq ft of future retail space,”

Mr Gooding, who has urged people to have their say on the proposals, added: “The feedback I’m getting from retailers in the city is that retail is performing well and there’s certainly demand for more but there’s pressure in terms of retailers wanting the right kind of space.”

Primark is known to be among the major shopping names who have looked at Carlisle, but say there’s not currently anywhere in the city that meets their needs.

Carlisle MP John Stevenson has also spoken to developers interested in setting up. “There are people potentially looking to come to Carlisle. The trend is positive,” he said. “We’re starting to see some of the national chains take an interest in Carlisle.

“Carlisle is going to come out of this recession stronger than it did the last.”

Proposals for Rickergate also include the demolition of eight houses and a hairdresser’s in Warwick Street. Some residents have already vowed to fight that element of the plan.

Members of residents’ group Save our Streets have also been critical, saying they weren’t consulted before the council released the development options last Friday.

But a council spokes-woman said: “We contacted a representative of the Save our Streets group prior to the consultation starting.

“This was to give them advance notice that a consultation exercise was due to start and to arrange a meeting with the group to discuss the proposals.”

Consultation on the city centre framework drawn up for the local plan continues until September 1.

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