Potteries Shopping Centre's expansion plan is blocked to protect rival
STOKE-ON-TRENT City Council is blocking a shopping centre's £14 million expansion – in order to protect a rival city centre development.
The authority is refusing to sell land needed for the extension of the Potteries Shopping Centre, despite granting the scheme planning permission in February.
In a leaked letter seen by The Sentinel, council chief executive John van de Laarschot assures Realis – the developer behind the proposed £350 million City Sentral shopping centre – that the current Potteries plans would not go ahead.
City Sentral, which is set to provide 80 shops, restaurants and a cinema on the site of the former East West precinct, is the centrepiece of the city council's ambitious plans for the city centre. But the development could be undermined by the Potteries extension, which will house six restaurants and a 10-screen cinema.
Capital Shopping Centres, which owns the Potteries, needs to buy council-owned land in Brewery Street and Bryan Street in order to proceed with the scheme.
In his letter to Realis managing director Duncan Mathieson, Mr van de Laarschot says the land will not be sold. He writes: "There is no change in our stance with CSC and their need for the council's land. To reiterate, the city council will not sell the land, to CSC, that is required as part of their proposed extension.
"As land owner, the council's consent is required in order to deliver the CSC scheme as granted.
"The council are not negotiating and will not treat with CSC for the disposal or granting of rights over its land to deliver the Potteries extension, to allow City Sentral to progress in compliance with the development agreement the council has entered into with Realis."
Council leader Mohammed Pervez insisted that the council supported the Potteries expansion 'in principle' but said it should not jeopardise City Sentral.
He said: "We have made no secret of the fact that we are backing the City Sentral development in our city centre."
He added: "We are also supportive of the expansion of the Potteries Centre in principle but the two schemes must be complementary and one scheme should not jeopardise the other.
"This will only be possible if the two schemes are phased appropriately."
Former councillor Mike Barnes published an excerpt from the leaked letter on his Potteries Eye website.
He believes that by blocking the Potteries development, the council is gambling with the regeneration of the city centre.
Mr Barnes said: "The question is, will City Sentral still go ahead? We're in a situation where the council is closing everything else down for City Sentral, and now it's got to the point where they're blocking other investment into Hanley."
Councillor Dave Conway, leader of the City Independents group, said the council should have told CSC it had no intention of selling the land before plans were submitted.
Nobody at CSC was available for comment.