Green light for bid to bring magnet store to Stevenage retail park

Construction on the store is expected to start shortly

Construction on the store is expected to start shortly - Credit: Archant

A controversial planning application to build a department store in Stevenage was approved on Tuesday.

All but one councillors at Stevenage Borough Council’s Planning and Development Committee voted to approve the application to build a 100,000 square foot Debenhams store at the Roaring Meg Retail Park on Great North Road.

Many Stevenage retailers had argued that placing the store out-of-town would harm other shops because it would draw trade away from the town centre.

But the borough’s planners said that it would only take away 9.8% of trade from town centre and the retail park was the only viable place that it could go.

Speaking before the decision was made Peter Everest, managing director WD Ltd, which owns Westgate Shopping Centre, said: “I think it should not be granted because the report claiming that there is no other place in the town is wrong.

“We can build a new shop as easily as converting an existing one. If this is granted it will have a major impact on the town centre. This will mean less shops and less jobs for people in Stevenage which is why I urge you to reject this application.”

In response a spokesman for the council said that currently there was no unit large enough in the town centre and in a realistic time frame it was not feasible to build a new one.

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Before the application went to a vote councillor Michelle Gardner said: “It is a difficult decision to make because ideally we wanted the store in the town centre. However it has nowhere to go there and it is better to have a department store in Stevenage than not which is why I am voting for this application.”

Only one councillor, Graham Snell, opposed the application but he did not make any comment on the application during the meeting.

Gareth Dougherty, senior acquisitions manager at Debenhams, said: “We are delighted to be bringing this exciting new format for Debenhams to Stevenage.”

The store will be placed in Unit 5 in the park – currently used as by Toys ‘R Us and is due to open in 2017.

Once open the shop will £20.31 million per year and create more than 200 jobs. Debenhams will also fund a £70,000 dedicated bus service from the town to the retail park.

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