DEVELOPERS have unveiled £25 million plans to expand Monks Cross Shopping Park on the edge of York, creating two large anchor stores and up to 175 jobs.
Under the proposals, the existing Marks & Spencer, Sports Direct and Laura Ashley units would be converted into one anchor store of 70,000 sq ft and a second anchor store of 60,000 sq ft would be created by combining WH Smith and Outfit.
The plans also seek to divide the existing Clarks shoe shop into two smaller units, providing a more suitably-sized unit for Clarks and also helping to accommodate the retailers displaced through the creation of the larger units.
Monks Cross Shopping said the project was the minimum it needed to do to keep the centre viable, after two of its main occupants, Marks & Spencer and Next, confirmed they were opening new stores in the nearby Oakgate scheme beside the new community stadium.
The centre warned that 40 per cent of its retailers had said they wanted to leave, or needed units of a different size or position.
Eric Hall, of property company TDH Estates, which has prepared the planning application, said the centre needed anchor stores to generate the footfall that the other retailers trade off.
The company is in talks with a clothing retailer that would be new to York, over the larger 70,000 sq ft store, and Mr Hall said they were “more than reasonably confident” of a deal.
They also hope a department store will relocate into the 60,000 sq ft store.
The 15-year-old shopping centre has had no major works for a number of years and previous plans involving extending two units into car parking space and adding mezzanine floors to existing units were turned down last May.
Mr Hall said the new plans involved no new buildings or extensions, but existing mezzanine flooring in some of the units earmarked to become new anchor stores would be extended.
Mr Hall said the plans would increase floor space by 48,000 sq ft without adding any new ground floor accommodation.
He said: “The priority has to be to attract key retailers to Monks Cross Shopping Park for the benefit of the city of York and the wider area.
“We feel this proposal would do just that and position York and particularly Monks Cross Shopping as a retail destination of choice with much to offer.”
Local councillor Carol Runciman said she hoped there would not be local disruption during the construction work, such as over parking.
Coun Runciman said: “A tremendous number of local people shop at Monks Cross, and if this scheme improves shopping in the local area and creates new jobs, that has to be a good thing.”
Mr Hall said he hoped to have a named occupier for every part of the scheme by the time a planning application is submitted in spring.
The scheme would help to retain 120 jobs and safeguard the future of the park, which employs 1,000 people in total, while also creating up to 175 jobs during the year-long construction work, which could start by the end of the year if plans are approved.
The Oakgate shopping scheme, which was approved as part of the community stadium project, will include Marks & Spencer, Next and John Lewis stores.