I meant to write this months ago, when it wasn’t quite so widely known what was going on, but had been reported to councillors at the Development Control (aka planning) committee and a regeneration scrutiny committee I’m on. Now it’s been in the papers and everything, and there’s currently a model on display of the future plans actually within the shopping centre, so go and have a look and have your say! You can also find the information at www.broadmarshdevelopment.com/
The Broad Marsh shopping centre has clearly been on a bit of a downward spiral for the last ten years or so, and is these days in a very sorry state with many vacant shops and many shops at the lower end of the scale. Investment is sorely needed.
Worse, Westfield, who own it, have been slowly acquiring property around the site ready for their expansion plans. The result is they now own the entire city block between Canal Street and Collin Street – and they are keeping almost all of it empty and boarded up. The result is that the walk into town from the railway and bus stations looks derelict and neglected.
Westfield do plan to put some serious money into the site. The question for ages has been when? Now the answer is becoming clear.
They did have planning permission for a major rehaul, but didn’t begin within the standard three years, and so that permission expired. Rather than just allow them to renew it, the Council’s planning people have insisted they up their game and come up with some rather fancy new plans. And that is what is currently on display in the centre and will be coming to Councillors for a decision within the next few months.
In the mean time, since last Autumn, there have been a series of smaller planning applications to make changes around the centre, and work has begun on putting those changes into practice. Although these smaller items fall far short of the hundreds of millions of pounds the major scheme will spend, they are still at a cost of several million, and should make a significant difference. Better still, the developers hope to have them finished by Easter 2012, so we have a clear timeline for these changes.
They are in four steps.
Three of those steps are essentially cosmetic overhauls of the three main entrances. The entrance from the station will be opened up with windows in the currently plain brick walls, a wider entrance and changes to the street. The tunnel from the bus station will be closed off for public use (although it can’t be removed entirely as it is a fire escape from some parts of the centre). The bottle neck that currently happens as people queue at the pedestrian crossing on Collin Street should be sorted out by making the pedestrian gap and the doors much wider.
At the Drury Walk entrance opposite Bridlesmithgate, the current entrance will be taken back almost to the escalators with the space currently occupied by Threshers opened up. Here they will be putting in some double-height stores that are apparently the thing that retailers are demanding the most. They will also be putting windows into the wall currently facing the tram tracks and Nottingham Contemporary.
Similar works are planned at the main entrance near Boots, from Listergate. They will remove the dated canopy and put in plain glass, with a dark black frame around it that apparently looks more modern.
So those are the works to three entrances. All three have planning permission now and are on track to be started soon.
The next thing is the plan for a food court. This will be near the existing Wimpy and got planning permission at committee last week. The shops around it will be opened up and moved back to make the corridor much wider. The wider corridor will have up to 800 seats and tables installed. All of the shops around there will be converted into kitchen use, with counters facing the tables, and in the middle of the tables will be further display kitchens. The idea is to have some sort of “food theatre” – where highly visible cooking goes on and is an attraction in its own right.
At committee I put down a bit of a marker – although it wasn’t really planning issues and so couldn’t be made a condition. But I hope the food court will have at least some outlets dedicated to selling proper healthy food, not just burgers and chips, and I hope that the whole shebang will be using proper china plates and metal knives and forks, as I have seen similar food courts in many places that just generate an enormous amount of waste by using single use paper plates and plastic cutlery.
The three changes around the entrances and the food court should all now be there and open by next Easter. I’m sure we’ll all be watching to see that they keep to time.
The next big change is the planning application that has just gone into the Council that Westfield are currently consulting on, and that is heyuuge. It involves major change to how pretty much the whole of the south side of Nottingham works, relocates some major roads and infrastructure, and radically changes the whole of the Broad Marsh Centre. This, we haven’t decided on yet.
The plan will flatten everything between the current Broad Marsh and Canal Street, and that will all be part of the new centre. Collin Street will close to traffic, and the current car park and bus station will be demolished. Those two bits of infrastructure will be relocated to the far side of the tram bridge and in their space will be thousands of square feet of new shopping centre. In the corner where Ocean currently is will be an enormous anchor department store. Securing a tenant for that will be one of the key things that makes the whole scheme viable. Slightly disappointingly, some of the names being bandied about are stores that are already in Nottingham, like M&S and Debenhams, so attracting them into the new site will just open up other stores elsewhere in the city.
The new centre is planned to be much more open plan. The current centre is entirely enclosed. The new one will be open to the elements, with better views into the site and out of it, and with more nighttime activity including even more restaurant space for the city. The centre is planned to have its own tram stop with good links to the bus station and the best part of 3,000 parking spaces. By the time the new centre is ready, we should have lines 2 and 3 of the tram nearing completion, so there will be a lot of construction going on in the city for the next few years!
Exciting times ahead.