Downtown designer outlet approved by South Kesteven planners

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A £125 million designer outlet centre has been given the go ahead - the second to be permitted for the outskirts of Grantham, with expectations construction work could start in months.

Members of South Kesteven District Council’s development management committee agreed to Oldrid and Co’s plans to demolish a number of existing buildings on Occupation Lane, Gonerby Moor, and create 107 units containing “upscale brand” retail, cafe and storage businesses.

It also wants to build a new two-storey Downtown@Home store and a garden centre along with a tourist information and visitor centre, training academy, a leisure unit and a series of offices.

However, objectors, including Rioja and Buckminster, Grantham Town Centre retailers, and neighbouring authorities, argued the centre would not reach its full capacity – with many pointing out it would only attract mid-market businesses rather than the top-tier brands it was promoting.

They argued that trade and jobs would be taken from Grantham town centre and could harm neighbouring towns and city centres.

Jenni Cussell, from John Cussell Jewellers, said the loss of just one retail unit could signal the “death of the town”.

“If retailers have to close because of the DOC then Grantham will become a ghost town,” she said.

“This is such an important issue that it could be the nail in the coffin for retailers, without retail shops there isn’t a town.”

Peter Isaac, finance director for Oldrids and Downtown, told councillors: “Grantham is important to us as we are to Grantham”.

He said the scheme has received a lot of support during consultation and on social media.

“This is crucial not only for our business but also those it employs. It’s vital businesses like ours continue to invest in Grantham,” he said.

“We are building for the future. This is not a short term plan,” he added.

Marcus Meadows, retail operations director at Downtown, called objections to the plan “project fear” which “seek to muddy the waters”.

Richard Broadhead, managing director of Oldrids & Downtown, said the recomendation for approval was the “right conclusion”.

“This is the right thing for Grantham and the wider area.”

Coun Paul Woods called the plans innovative and said he believed the centre would “make Grantham, not kill it.”

Coun Rosemary Kaberry-Brown also supported the scheme, bearing nearby housing developments in mind, she said: “Wouldn’t it be marvellous if we could offer them the opportunity to work at Downtown.”

However, Coun Jacky Smith was concerned about the effect the centre would have on SKDC’s own investments.

“This council is spending a lot of money in trying to attract businesses to come into the town and we won’t necessarily have them coming if we have no vibrant or potentially vibrant town centre,” she said.

The company have previously said the move would protect its existing 700 jobs and create an additional 1,700 jobs.

Access to the site would be from Occupation Lane and the A1 southbound and Allington Lane East, with deliveries from Palmer Road.

The new retail centre would include 1,979 parking spaces, including a multi-storey car park, 11 coach parking spaces, bus stop and electric vehicle charging.

The plans will now go before the Secretary of State to decide if he wants to take any further action.