A £120M plan to extend a town centre and create up to 1,500 new jobs should be re-thought, according the region’s leading society for business.
The Western Gateway project is designed to kickstart the retail heart of Middlesbrough by redeveloping Cannon Park and the Sainsbury’s site just outside the town centre.
But now the North East Chamber of Commerce has publicly issued a statement arguing the masterplan needs to be rethought.
The NECC argues there is no demand for a new retail park and it could damage businesses currently on the site. Concerns have also been raised that the new retail centre could have an adverse effect on the current town centre.
Middlesbrough Council has indicated that modifications to the original proposals are likely.
In a letter to the local authority, NECC Head of Member Relations, Rachel Anderson, pointed out that studies and surveys about the idea were conducted six years ago, before the economic downturn.
She said: “While we can see genuine economic benefits to improving Cannon Park, it’s hard to ascertain where demand for such radical proposals will come from. There appears to be no appetite amongst developers to build schemes like this in the short and medium term.
“The lack of demand suggests there would be a significant delay in construction adding to the uncertainty for the businesses already on the site.
“The study fails to look at the Tees Valley as a single conurbation. Teesside Park, the Cleveland Retail Park and Portrack Lane already have a large national chains and it is unlikely those retailers would place supplementary stores such a short distance from existing sites.
“There are some good businesses already based on Cannon Park who employ skilled people and are looking to invest and expand. They can’t do that without long term certainty and we would urge the Council to make swift decisions on the future of the site to give them the confidence to either invest or seek another site. A further decade of hiatus would be unacceptable.”
Middlesbrough Council has indicated that modifications were likely and the masterplan would be available for inspection in the coming months. However councillor Charlie Rooney, executive councillor for regeneration, has said the need for more retail has been identified by independent analysis.