Fears over town centres as retail park gets bigger

An artist impression of one of the new units at Silverlink after plans to expand were approved.
An artist impression of one of the new units at Silverlink after plans to expand were approved.
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Fears have been raised over the future of two town centres after a shopping park’s expansion was approved.

The Crown Estate’s £30m plans to demolish the former Travelodge hotel and create four new shopping units at Silverlink Shopping Park were given the green light by North Tyneside Council’s planning committee on Tuesday.

Work is now due to begin this summer, creating 175 construction jobs, while 300 retail jobs will be available once the scheme is complete in autumn 2016, with Next Home and Garden one of the first to commit to a unit.

However, local businesses have hit out at the new 106,000sq ft scheme – increasing the footprint of Silverlink by 47 per cent – as it could have a damaging impact on both North Shields and Wallsend town centres.

And concerns have also been raised that planned investment in both towns could be withdrawn.

NewRiver Retail, owners of both the Forum shopping centre in Wallsend and The Beacon Centre in North Shields, criticised the plans.

We’re delighted with the committee’s decision and look forward to progressing our plans for regenerating this site.

Hannah Milne, regional portfolio manager at The Crown Estate

The company has invested £25m in the Forum and a further £15m in the Beacon, with plans drawn up to improve both centres.

In a letter to the committee, a spokesperson for NewRiver stated: “NewRiver is seriously concerned that the apparent over-dominance of Silverlink Retail Park will result in drawing large numbers of people from North Shields and Wallsend, and divert significant trade from existing retailers in these centres.

“This will then result in a significant adverse impact on the vitality and viability of borth North Shields and Wallsend town centres.”

The council’s manager of regeneration wrote: “It would be potentially damaging to the future of North Shields if this proposed development deterred the new owner of the Beacon Centre from investing in much needed improvements to the existing indoor shopping centre.”

There were also objections from Tynemouth MP Alan Campbell, North Shields Chamber of Trade and Hammerson UK Properties, owners of Westmorland Retail Park in Cramlington.

The report said there were no viable sites for developments of this size in North Shields, Whitley Bay or Killingworth, while the only space in Wallsend was already earmarked for development at the Forum Shopping Centre.

It added: “The proposed development will not have a significant adverse impact on the vitality or viability of the town centres.”

The plans also include 279 new car parking spaces and replacing the roundabout at the entrance to the park with traffic lights.

Hannah Milne, regional portfolio manager at The Crown Estate, said: “We’re delighted with the committee’s decision and look forward to progressing our plans for regenerating this site.

“The project represents a substantial investment in the local area which will enhance the shopping experience for Silverlink’s customers, create hundreds of jobs, provide youth employment opportunities, and facilitate key infrastructure improvements which will benefit the wider regeneration of this part of North Tyneside.”

Coun Frank Lott, cabinet member for economic development, said: “This investment in North Tyneside is excellent news, bringing fantastic new facilities to Silverlink for shoppers from across the region, creating hundreds of jobs and providing more training opportunities for local young people.”