Realis backed by Stoke-on-Tent City Council have plans to build a £350m shopping centre called City Sentral, with claims of major shopping brand “sign up” just this week reported in the Sentinel newspaper. The new development, it is claimed will be open in 2015 – just over 2 years away. The council is pining its regeneration hopes on the project even to the extent of deciding to move its HQ at a cost of £59m near to the site, to give it a boost.
Yet there is increasing skepticism amongst opposition councillors and campaigners within the City both in the claims made by the developers and the likely success of the scheme in the current economic climate.
Are the developers and councillors spinning a yarn? Will the centre be built by 2015? Will it be built at all?
Well what are the facts?
Realis and the Sentinel report that major retailers have signed up – but when contacted none of these retailers would confirm “sign up.” The Save our stoke group, who are opposing the Civic Centre move from Stoke, contacted the “anchor” sign up, proudly unveiled 12 months ago – Mark & Spencers. PotteriesEYE also contacted them. Dan Himsworth from their corporate press office in London said:
“We have signed nothing but we are talking to the developer.”
When asked if they would close their current store in Hanley if they did go into the new centre, he said:
I can’t give those kinds of details out, but if you take Bradford as an example, where we have just opened a similar store, we did close a nearby store.
They also said that developers do this all the time – claim stores are signed up when they are not. They say it helps them sell units.
Over 60 of the shops (80%) in the new centre have no identified “sign up”. Yet despite marketing the project for the last 12 months and just 2 years from opening the doors, Realis say this:
We are at the very early stages in our marketing programme and are concentrating on securing the major anchor retailers and leisure users. Once these operators have been secured we will begin general marketing of the remaining 60 or so shop and restaurant units. More information on the scheme can be found at the City Sentral website.
Also 25% of shops in Hanley are already empty AND the current Potteries Shopping Centre also have plans to expand.
Is the opening date of 2015 realistic?
Well, there is not even full planning permission yet for the development – only outline planning permission exists, which means they still have to got back to the council for full permission before work can start.
Compare this to the new bus station project, one tenth the scale of the shopping centre. It has taken well over twelve months to build (six months late!).
So in just over two years, they need planning permission, demolish and clear the site and build a £350m centre.
Well if I was a betting man I know where my money be going?
What do you think?