BUSINESS leaders have hit out over proposals to expand York Designer Outlet - saying the council should prioritise filling city centre retail space instead.

As reported by the Press last year, a multi-million-pound bid to create 25 new retail and restaurant units at York Designer Outlet has been lodged by Designer Retail Outlet Centres (DROC) York - the company name for the outlet.

However, both York Retail Forum and York Bid have now written to City of York Council, suggesting that the council’s priority must be to “support retail in the city centre, which continues to face a challenging climate with competition from out of town retail offers”.

The council said it had not yet made a decision on the application.

In the letter York Retail Forum and York Bid said: “York as a city already has a disproportionate amount of out of town retail per head of population, compared to any city in the UK.

“Vacant units exist in the city centre. Allowing more retail floorspace would not show a commitment from the council to addressing the current retail issues.

“Also, creating an extra 630 car parking spaces will be viewed negatively by current city retailers, whose customers pay significant fees to access city centre parking.”

York Bid boss, Andrew Lowson, added: “City leaders talk about supporting the city centre retail offer; they need to be consistent. There is available retail stock in the city centre and other out of town retail sites, so building more floorspace makes no strategic sense. Building additional car parking is also not consistent with recent council announcements about reducing vehicle usage.

“If councillors are applying this to the city centre but not to alternative locations, it will be met with great frustration from city centre retail in particular.”

Paul Tyler, centre manager at York Designer Outlet, said: “The York Designer Outlet has been a positive part of the city’s retail and destination offer for over 20 years. Our modest expansion of approximately 25 retail units will allow us to increase the number of parking spaces by 630 more, and improve the layout, reducing congestion.

“We are also proposing to relocate what is York’s busiest Park&Ride facility to a new area, securing its long term future as a key part of reducing traffic congestion into and out of York city centre.

“We remain committed to playing our part as a major employer and investor in York plc alongside retailers in the city centre.”

Mike Slater, council assistant director for planning and public protection, said: “This application remains under consideration and no outcome has yet been determined. We deal with all planning applications according to the normal planning process. This includes all comments and objections that are formally lodged, which will be taken into account in the decision-making process.”