Fears for Bexleyheath as Bluewater has major expansion plans approved
PUBLISHED: 10:42 25 April 2017 | UPDATED: 11:54 26 April 2017
The council expressed concerns in planning documents
Plans to reconfigure Bluewater Shopping Centre and create thousands of new jobs could threaten the borough’s town centres, the council fears.
The shopping centre in Greenhithe is hoping to create 2,300 jobs by expanding its West Village, near the shopping centre’s lake, and by creating five new shopping units to boost the size of existing shops at the centre.
Dartford council’s development control board voted unanimously to approve the development.
Bexley council raised concerns before the applications approval.
Following the news, a council spokesman said: “Despite challenging conditions in the retail sector, Bexleyheath and Crayford town centres continue to trade well. People clearly value convenient local shopping of the type they offer and it’s important that this is something that continues to be available.
“While we do not object in principle to the expansion of Bluewater, we believe it is very important to consider the impact its expansion may have on shops in our borough.
“Bluewater is a powerful magnet for shoppers looking for an experience and a range of goods, but it’s important that we safeguard the local shops where most of our residents continue to do most of their shopping. That is what we have tried to do in our comments on the planning application to Dartford council.”
Robert Goodman, general manager at Bluewater added: “We welcome the planning committee’s unanimous decision to approve the application. The proposals to evolve Bluewater are important to ensure it continues to provide its guests with a comprehensive and compelling offer. They will also create up to 500 jobs during construction and 2,300 once complete. Following the committee’s decision, our focus is now on working in partnership with our stakeholders on the detail of the proposals over the coming months.”
Manager at Bexleyheath’s Business Improvement District, Tony Garratt remains optimistic for the town.
He said: “Either the centre brings in some new brands and gains more attention, or it will bring more people to the area as a whole.
“Bluewater’s target audience and our own are quite different, it looks for the monthly and tourist visitors, whereas we look for weekly, regular customers.
“If they’re going to create new buildings and keep parking the same, well it’s already a nightmare getting out of that place, a few more people might come to us instead.”
The shopping centre also hopes to change the layout of the square outside the West Village, where Pizza Express is based, and reconfigure the nearby car park.
Under proposals there is no suggestion that the number of car parking spaces could increase, while the centre’s coach park is also expected to move to make up for the loss of spaces in the west village.
The coach park could potentially be moved next to the site’s security offices.