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Thursday, 27 November 2014

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Car park space targeted to allow for Carlisle shops expansion

Car parks could be closed to make way for new shops in Carlisle city centre.

Jane Meek photo
Jane Meek

Council planning chiefs are looking at possible sites for major new retail development.

And suggestions have surfaced that car parks on Lowther/Chapel Streets and Drovers Lane could be contenders.

The ideas are being floated as work continues to draw up a masterplan for the future of the city centre. They are detailed as part of a Carlisle City Council document going out for consultation for a month from Monday.

Suggesting ideas for the area north of Lowther Street, including Rickergate, the document states: “The Lowther Street/ Chapel Street car park and the council car park are possible future sites for retail-led development to extend high street retail provision to meet future demand.

“The low-rise buildings attached to the Civic Centre tower block could also be considered for future retail development if alternative office accommodation can be found for existing uses in future.”

Suggestions for that part of the city centre also include creating better pedestrian connections between the main shopping area and the car park at the Sands Centre and considering cutting traffic in the area by creating a new access to Georgian Way.

The idea is being consulted on as work continues to draw up the next Carlisle District Local Plan, a blueprint for what might be built and where in the area between 2015 and 2030.

It will form a critical part of driving the economy forward and making the area more attractive to investors, who potentially might include major retailers.

Experts estimate 200,000sq ft of new non-food retailing space – about half the size of the Lanes Shopping Centre – will be needed in the city between now and 2021. Shoppers have told researchers that persuading Primark to set up in the city is one of their key hopes, but also that Carlisle lacks some higher end stores which it could be expected to have.

Lack of sites big enough for them to move into is, however, the stumbling block for many in basing themselves in the city.

And putting forward ideas on how to further enhance the main shopping area, the council states: “The refurbishment and reuse of buildings that become vacant is a high priority to maintain the vibrancy of the retail centre.”

Not all of the ideas suggested in the latest round of discussions about the local plan will make it to the final document. But it is hoped that they will trigger discussion.

Jane Meek, the city council’s economic development director, said: “Retail has changed over the past few years. A city has to offer more than just retailing. It has to be about a whole leisure experience. That’s what the council is trying to achieve.

“I hope people will see we have a vibrant and thriving city and what we’re doing will ensure that continues.

“Carlisle’s catchment is 400,000 people. That is huge. It encompasses Dumfries and Galloway and north Cumbria. This is a city that attracts a lot of people. We need one that’s going to continue to do that.”

Other ideas mooted as part of developing the city centre include changes to its historic Citadel entrance and possibly a redevelopment in the railway station area to create parking and transport interchange.

Nearly 1,100 comments have been made so far on the next local plan.

The latest round of consultation will continue until December 9. Public displays on the city centre suggestions are planned. For more details go to www.carlisle.gov.uk/localplan.

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