A £70 MILLION extension to the Arndale Centre has been given the go-ahead by councillors who hope it will set off a ripple effect and kick-start further regeneration of the town centre.
The ambitious plans to add an extra 22 shops, 15,000 square metres of retail space, two new levels of car parking with 370 extra spaces and main entrance opposite the railway station received unanimous backing at a Town Hall meeting on Thursday night.
Councillors were delighted with the developers’ claims that the revamp would create the equivalent of 650 new full-time jobs and described the build as a generation defining opportunity.
The scheme is expected to get underway within the next two years and the first stage of the development will be the wholesale demolition of the buildings currently on the site.
This means that a row of shops on Terminus Road, starting from the newsagents next door to Specsavers and ending with The Gildredge pub, will be knocked down.
In their place will emerge two- storey, glass-fronted units which the architects say will prove better suited to modern high street retailers.
An internal street will run behind these shops linking that end of Terminus Road up with the existing Arndale Centre through what is currently HMV and Next.
The old mall will also get a costly face-lift, with new toilets and more modern entrances in an effort to make the join of the two sites as seamless as possible.
And a host of bus stops currently on Terminus Road will be shifted further towards Bankers Corner and Cornfield Road to ease the congestion on the stretch known as Diesel Alley.
Concerns that the extension would potentially hinder the emergence of more independent businesses were put to rest by Tim Tradewell, the head of Eastbourne’s Independent Traders Association.
He told councillors, “The lack of quality stifles us all. A lack of shops and appropriate retail space means a lack of shoppers which is something which impacts all local businesses, including my own.
“This is an opportunity to safeguard the future of our town.”
It was a sentiment echoed by Darren Weir, who spoke on behalf of the Eastbourne Hoteliers Association.
He said an improved town centre would be of real benefit to hotels and guest houses.
“This is a generation-changing moment,” he said, “Any hotelier will tell you that when it rains, tourists go to the shops.
“This development will have a ripple effect down to the other areas of town. Approving it is a no brainer.”
Councillors were in unanimous agreement and praised the architect for listening to local people while finalising the plans.
Around 5,000 people attended a host of consultations in the town and the planning committee delighted in how the people of Eastbourne had rallied round the plans.
Stephen Lloyd, the town’s MP, welcomed the decision. He said, “This is going to be transformational.”