Superstore Downtown is going head-to-head with landowner Buckminster in a fight to be the chosen location for Grantham’s designer outlet village.
Plans revealed exclusively to the Journal this week show the Gonerby Moor store’s intention to extensively redevelop its site to create Downtown Grantham Designer Outlet – a £125 million investment.
The proposal is in direct competition with Buckminster’s plan to build a 130-outlet shopping village off the A1, just south of Grantham.
Downtown’s 220,435 sq ft scheme would include 107 outlets, a purpose-built Downtown@Home and garden centre and an indoor leisure complex. If approved, it aims to open in 2019.
The shock move to throw its hat into the ring is a bid to protect the store’s future – and an existing 700 jobs. And with the roads network and its status as an established retail destination, managing director Richard Broadhead believes Downtown is “the right location” and has “significant advantages”.
Mr Broadhead added: “We’re confident that this is great news for Grantham.
We believe in this – we are serious and we’re going to deliver it.Richard Broadhead, Downtown managing director
“We are part of Grantham, we are important to Grantham and Grantham is important to us.”
He added: “Clearly, it’s a direct fight now, but we’re confident it’s a viable scheme and the right thing to do.”
Mr Broadhead hopes to submit a planning application to South Kesteven District Council “as quickly as possible”. If given the green light, 1,700 additional jobs would be created. It would also see the store’s distribution centre relocated elsewhere locally to make space for the ambitious village plans, which would feature “inspiring architecture and landmark buildings”.
Although this does not form part of Downtown’s development plan, its board believes there is scope for a railway station to be built on the nearby line, which carries passengers on the Nottingham-Skegness line. Mr Broadhead said he has already held talks with Network Rail, which is supportive of the idea. Current bus links between the town and store could be increased to promote travel into the town centre, while a ‘park and ride’ scheme is also a possibility.
Similar to Buckminster’s proposal, the Downtown shopping village is likened to Oxford’s Bicester Village, rather than the smaller scale Springfields at Spalding – a project Mr Broadhead was heavily involved with ahead of its opening in 2004. He went on to be involved in similar projects elsewhere across the world.
It is his experience and that of his board and project partners which gives Mr Broadhead confidence in the project. Downtown has joined forces with: Freeport Retail, a leading developer and operator of outlets Europe-wide; Stathern-based retail specialists Brookerflynn Architects; retail development and planning specialists Cushman & Wakefield; and property consultants Fisher German.
Downtown – which Mr Broadhead says brings £75 million to the economy every year – is attempting to catch up with Buckminster, which submitted its planning application in June.
The landowner is working with specialist designer outlet village developer Rioja Developments, and its £100 million, 270,000 sq ft village proposal includes play areas, cafés and restaurants, as well as 1,800 parking spaces and a visitor and tourism centre. Buckminster believes 1,500 jobs would be created.
Downtown’s news was announced to staff and shareholders yesterday morning (Thursday), and a public consultation is set to begin on Friday, August 18, both in the Downtown store and in Grantham Museum. Information boards and visuals will be on show in the museum on the Friday, 11am-6pm, and Saturday, 11.30am-4.30pm. They will be available to view in the store until the following Thursday.
Mr Broadhead said: “Why us? Our focus is our scheme. We can’t do anything about the other proposal [Buckminster]. We believe in this – we are serious and we’re going to deliver it. We’ve done a lot of work to get to this point.”
He added: “This is an opportunity to create something special.
“This is a vote of confidence in Grantham.”
Downtown opened on July 29, 1989, and began its partnership with Boundary Mill in 1996. The garden centre opened four years later.
* Pick up today’s Journal for more on this exclusive story.
** Key features:
*107 mid to high end individual designer outlet stores;
*Purpose-built Downtown@Home flagship store;
*Brand new ‘garden centre of the future’ – with the current centre being demolished;
*1,724 car parking spaces – an increase of 604;
*22,560 sq ft indoor leisure provision;
*Tourist information and visitor centre;
*Grantham Training Academy;
*Business incubator hub – branded ‘Grantham’s Silicon Valley’ – to include office space and meeting conferencing facilities;
*Public transport links and future scope.