More than cheap shoes and sausage rolls: councillor calls for investment as Crewe's Royal Arcade gets green light

  Posted: 15.09.21 at 14:41 by Gwyn Griffiths

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DEVELOPERS of Crewe’s Royal Arcade were pressed on detail of the shops and leisure facilities that the scheme might attract as the town centre project was given the go-ahead today (Wednesday).

Councillors at Cheshire East Council’s strategic planning board voted through the hybrid planning application from Peveril Securities, which includes full permission to demolish Crewe’s rundown bus terminus and replace it with a new one along with building an adjoining multi-storey car park.

In tandem they also approved an outline application for a mixed-use development, including a bowling alley and cinema, eateries and retail outlets.

But notes of caution were struck over the viability of the retail/leisure part of the scheme, given the current state of the High Street economy in the wake of the pandemic.

Crewe Central councillor Anthony Critchley highlighted the problems the second phase of the project - which will only start after the scheduled completion of the bus station and car park in August 2023 – might face if it did not attract tenants.

“I like the look of the bus station, but at the moment all people [using it] will be able to do is buy some cheap shoes, put money on the 2.15 at Kempton and buy a sausage roll,” declared Cllr Critchley.

Crewe Central councillor Anthony Critchley backs the scheme but wants guarantees over retail and leisure investment.

“We need to see more in the town centre and more community facilities.

“A local football team want to move their site and in their plans they have got provision for a community site – I’m looking to see those kind of facilities in the town centre.”

While the councillor backed the need to approve the plans and move forward, noting “this is the only offer”, he said he did not want to see the Royal Arcade hit similar problems to Baron’s Quay, a recent mixed-use scheme 14 miles away, which has struggled to fill its retail units since it was built.

“My concern is we end up with something like Northwich with empty units. It wouldn’t be Peveril that gets the blame, but the council,” said Cllr Critchley.

“We also need to look at the heritage [in the scheme] and include something that nods to the town clock in the past.”

Outline planning permission has been granted for the leisure/retail use at the Royal Arcade.

Representing Peveril at the meeting, Malcolm Wilcox painted a brighter picture of the sector, saying restaurants had "done quite well" since lockdown and the success of Crewe Market Hall showed there was a resurgence of people wanting to go out to enjoy leisure facilities.

“Today is an opportunity to realise the ambition for the Royal Arcade in Crewe and approval would enable us to start in January 2022. It will give confidence to the market place that this is actually happening and it will give confidence to the operators when we are negotiating with them," said the developer.

Designs for the new bus station and car park have been amended to include more environmentally-friendly elements, including green walls on the southern elevation of the car park as well as a landscaped strip edging up to Delamere Street.

Also as a result of the objections during the consultation period - which included those from Crewe Town Council and a number of residents - 42 spaces for cycle parking and electric vehicle charging points have been provided.

While a half-deck planned for the car park’s top floor has been removed and the number of parking spaces has been scaled down from 411 to 401.

There will be a new access to the planned bus station from Delamere Street, linked to bus bays with a single-storey mainly glass structure interchange to the rear. Access to the station from Victoria Street will be retained.

Odd Rode councillor Patrick Redstone said residential development should have been looked at as part of the scheme and he warned the area was in danger of becoming a “ghetto”.

“I’m also not sure of the quality of the design. I look at this and I can see this built in any town in the UK. If you age this building 40 years would you be proud of it?”

Knutsford councillor Stewart Gardiner was also critical and said the car park was in danger of becoming a “pretty, white elephant”. He said Cheshire East should insist the EV charging provision was doubled to cater for future motoring trends.

Crewe South councillor Steve Hogben believes the second phase of the scheme offers scope for varied leisure uses and noted than an ice rink had been mentioned as well as children’s play facilities, such as climbing walls.

Responding on behalf of Peveril, Mr Wilcox, revealed: “We have done quite a lot of soft play areas elsewhere and wall climbing is popular after the Olympics. These are the kind of activities that will bring in the people we are looking to attract.”

Councillors voted, with one abstention, to approve the hybrid planning application on condition the developers look into EV charge provision and provide a “replacement” clock as a gesture to the loss of Crewe’s former clock tower as a result of the demolition of the former shopping row on the west side of Queensway.

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