"THE owners of North London’s Brent Cross shopping centre have abandoned plans to extend the scheme in favour of a more ambitious 1 million sq ft development to include homes and leisure facilities, as well as retail space."Hammerson, the property developer, and Standard Life, the insurer, which jointly own the centre, propose to submit the new plans to Barnet Council within the next six months."The change of strategy comes after a four-year battle to win approval for the project. The proposal to extend the centre was initially rejected by planning inspectors in April 2000, but the Government has still to give its final verdict on whether the extension can go ahead."However, John Richards, chief executive of Hammerson, yesterday said that regardless of the Government’s decision, Hammerson would submit the new proposal to the regulators. He said:"Development fashions have changed. The Government is set against the creation of another stand-alone shopping centre like Bluewater, and as far as they are concerned, a straightforward extension of Brent Cross would be in that fashion.""The extension was initially rejected by the local authorities because the owners failed to establish a 'need' for the proposed new shops, a requirement for shopping schemes located outside of town centres."The Government has created a virtual blanket ban on shopping centre developments located outside of town centres, particularly those that rely on heavy car use, because it believes that this sort of development harms trading at neighbouring town centres."However, far from giving up on building new shops at Brent Cross, under the revised scheme, Hammerson and Standard Life propose to add about 290,000 sq ft of shopping space, an amount similar to the original proposal."Mr Richards said that it would be easier to show the 'need' for more shops at Brent Cross if the centre were bolstered by a much more comprehensive development, including homes and offices."Under the revised plan, the total amount of new development on land next to Brent Cross will almost quadruple. The new scheme will include a mix of affordable and luxury homes, hotels, offices, bars, restaurants and shops."Hammerson has been at the forefront of the Government’s city centre regeneration initiatives. Working closely with local authorities and communities, the developer is currently working on new projects to rebuild the Bull Ring in Birmingham, as well as schemes to create new city centre shopping developments in Bristol and Sheffield."Mr Richards said:"From a property developer’s perspective, the benefits of mixed-use schemes are enormous. If we have homes, offices and hotels next door to Brent Cross, we will have even more loyal local residents. People will not drive to Bluewater or Central London if they have the facilities they need on their doorstep.""Although Hammerson and Standard Life will build the commercial aspects of the new development, they are likely to form a joint venture with a housebuilder to develop the homes. Brent Cross shopping centre opened in 1976 and became the first US style air-conditioned two-tier shopping mall in the UK. At the time of its opening, there was much scepticism about whether the scheme would ever be a success and whether shoppers could be persuaded to travel to shop there rather than relying on their local high street."Rents at the centre have increased tenfold since then, to about £400 per sq ft."Ironically, the Government is now being forced to try to wean consumers off shopping at large malls — which protect them from the vagaries of the weather and allow them to take their shopping home by car — back on to high streets."
'The Times': 3 January, 2003.
(Image is of Hammerson's Jonathan Joseph,
Barnet Planning Committee, January 2014)
|(Barnet Times, Nov 2009)|