DEVELOPERS who threatened to pull out of the £70 million Arndale Centre extension over a planning row have hit back at critics who accused them of throwing their toys out of the pram, writes Annemarie Field.
Centre owner Legal & General said last week it was not sure it would go ahead with its refurbishment after planners gave permission for a new-look shopping complex in Sovereign Harbour.
The firm was accused of holding a gun to the council’s head and sparked a fierce debate on the Herald website with people either backing TeamArndale or TeamCrumbles.
But yesterday Legal & General’s head of retail development Simon Russian hit back at the criticisms and said the debate had included a number of inaccurate statements.
He told the Herald, “There has been, and continues to be, a significant level of debate and comment regarding the consequences of the council members voting against the planning officer’s recommendation, and indeed national planning policy, to restrict the types of retail goods that could be sold at Sovereign Harbour Retail Park (SHRP). The debate has included a number of inaccurate statements.
“Legal & General believes that Eastbourne deserves both the Arndale Centre extension and the proposed new cinema at Sovereign Harbour Retail Park. We supported the planning officer’s recommendation to approve the planning application, but with restrictions on the neighbouring units.
“These restrictions would ensure that traditional town centre uses, in particular fashion shops, remain in the town centre. This is a policy that is being encouraged across the entire country, in order to ensure town centres receive the vital investment that they need to grow in these extremely difficult economic times, and one which has been fully supported by the recent Portas review.
“We are the largest private sector investor in Eastbourne town centre and our intention to invest a further £70 million clearly demonstrates our commitment to improving the retail offer and overall town centre environment for the residents and visitors of Eastbourne.
“By failing to restrict the type of goods that can be sold on the outskirts of the town, there is the real threat that key major fashion tenants will be enticed to Sovereign Harbour.
“This would put the town centre regeneration in jeopardy, a risk the councillors seem content to take.”
Both Legal & General, along with Prudential which is behind the Sovereign Harbour facelift, are currently looking to see if their proposals are now viable.