Horsefair owners state what many already think: that out-of-town retail park could threaten viability of town centre

Wisbech mayor Samantha Hoy took this 'selfie' for a Horsefair Shopping Centre self photo competition

Wisbech mayor Samantha Hoy took this 'selfie' for a Horsefair Shopping Centre self photo competition - Credit: Archant

An 85,000 square ft out-of-town retail park – being built on the site of the former Tesco store in Sandown Road, Wisbech - threatens the town centre, say owners of the Horsefair Shopping Centre.

NewRiver Retail fears the competition particularly as “a number of leases within Horsefair are shortly due to expire. We are aware that very competitive rates are being offered at the out of town retail units associated with Tesco development”.

NewRiver’s agents, G L Hearn Ltd, explained their fears in an application before Fenland Council to allow a national restaurant chain to open a café at the Horsefair.

Hearn says retailers are not exactly flooding to make an offer on their empty unit which has been vacant since last March – it was formerly used by Dorothy Perkins and Burton.

Apart from one possibility “there have been very few inquiries and no genuine interest”.

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Hearn says the change of use, which needs planning approval from Fenland Council to switch it to a café, points out that Wisbech “does not currently appear on many potential occupiers’ requirements lists”.

The company, in its design statement to planners, says the “set back of the unit and lack of prominence when approached from Market Place has been cited as unattractive to potential occupiers.”

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NewRiver Retail says that although council policy would not normally allow non-shopping uses within the primary shopping centre, it was vital to maintain the viability and vitality of existing centres.

The company cites allowing a Costa Coffee outlet nearby as part of the council’s flexibility in this area and even if another café opens, the Horsefair would predominantly remain a shopping centre.

NewRiver says the equivalent of 10.5 full time jobs will be created if the café gets the go ahead – the town council has supported the change of use.

The out of town park – to be called Cromwell Retail Park fronts the B198 Cromwell Road and is opposite the new Tesco Extra and 8 screen cinema.

Agents for Cromwell Retail Park say on their website that Iceland, Poundstretcher, Bensons for Beds and Next are all lined up to go in there with four other units still to let.

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