RETAIL giant John Lewis has announced plans to open a department store costing more than £15 million at the planned Monks Cross retail park.

A planning application has been submitted for a 100,000sq ft store which is expected to create about 300 new jobs at the out-of-town park, which developers Oakgate (Monks Cross) Ltd say will create 1,600 jobs in total.

The “flexible format” department store, which will be slightly smaller than the chain’s major department stores, will sell clothes, home and electronics goods.

John Lewis will join a new Marks & Spencer store as well as a community stadium for York City and York City Knights at the site, if the plans are approved.

Tim Harrison, head of format development for John Lewis, said: “These new smaller department stores allow us to open in places we’ve wanted to trade in for years.

“Our local customers have been travelling to our regional stores at Sheffield and Newcastle, and the new shop in Monks Cross will plug the gap in that regional offer. We have long wanted to have a presence in York”.

Richard France, managing director of Oakgate, said the chain’s development was a boost to the economy of the city.

He said: “By agreeing terms for the Monks Cross development, John Lewis has given York a massive vote of confidence in what is a challenging time for retail. Its participation in our proposed scheme will enable a new community stadium and facilities to be built for the people of York, while bringing the best retail the UK has to offer to add to the already immensely diverse shopping experience the City provides. This high quality development will bring a range of high quality local jobs across an extremely wide spectrum. Something that should be welcomed by all.”

But critics have said the retail park will “slowly destroy” the city centre by diverting business out of town. Peter Brown, director of York Civic Trust, said: “I find it completely hypocritical because only a few weeks ago John Lewis were reported in the national press as saying out-of-town retail developments would damage the high streets. On the one hand they are suggesting the current legislation will damage the high streets and on the other they are doing exactly the same themselves.”

Oakgate has admitted that the city centre’s turnover on items such as electrical equipment, furniture and clothing will fall by £38.9 million in 2016. Such spending currently totals £422 million in the city centre and will rise to £581.1 million by 2016, Oakgate believes.

However, the news has been welcomed by the York and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce and City of York Council.

A spokesman for City of York Council said the announcement was a “huge boost” to York”.

Coun James Alexander, council leader, said: “This announcement follows discussions with the retailer by the council and those involved in the Community Stadium scheme and brings us another step closer to delivering a Community Stadium for York; benefiting local residents and professional and amateur sports clubs across the city.”

A spokeswoman for the York and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce said: “We definitely support the John Lewis development and think it’s great news for the community.”

The scheme is set to go before York’s planning committee in January.

In the pipeline

THE announcement of John Lewis’ plans to move to York comes after the owners of the Coppergate Centre revealed they hope to bring top-name stores to the city centre.

The Press reported last week how LaSalle Investment Management and its development manager, Centros, are looking at creating a £100 million to £150 million shopping scheme on the Castle Piccadilly site, possibly including an enlarged Fenwick store and other major national retailers.

Meanwhile, Dartstone Properties have called for City of York Council to give the go-ahead, in principle, for a new stadium for York City and York City Knights as part of a 34-acre sporting village next to the Outer Ring Road at Huntington.

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Store plan vote of confidence

ONE of the biggest names on the High Street, John Lewis, has confirmed it hopes to come to York. If all goes according to plan, it will open a new store at Monks Cross, next to Marks & Spencer and beside the city’s new stadium.

The news is a huge vote of confidence in York’s economy, although some retailers worry about the impact a John Lewis store at Monks Cross would have on the city centre.

The retail giant says it will invest more than £15 million in its new store, and create about 300 new jobs.

Such investment is welcome: as is the fact that such a top name is keen to come here. Tim Harrison, a spokesman for the chain, said local customers had been travelling to Sheffield and Newcastle. If the Monks Cross store goes ahead, more shoppers would come to York.

Nevertheless, despite the benefits to this city, we recognise the concerns of city-centre retailers. They fear the growth of Monks Cross, with its free parking and easy access, puts them at a disadvantage, and that their livelihoods could be at risk.

We believe the city centre, with its historic buildings, medieval streets and boutique shops, will always be a draw, to locals and visitors.

But the concerns of traders are real. That is why the city council must continue to do everything in its power – including look at the thorny issue of city centre parking – to ensure shops in the centre are not at a disadvantage.

Developing city-centre shopping must also remain a priority, which is why plans for the Castle Piccadilly area are so important. As we reported last week, those plans are still very much alive. We look forward to progress there.

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