Chorley to get more parking, but what about a Marks and Spencer?

The Reel cinema chain has confirmed its commitment to the Market Walk scheme.
The Reel cinema chain has confirmed its commitment to the Market Walk scheme.
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Marks and Spencer is still in negotiations with Chorley Council over renting space in the extended Market Walk shopping development - eight months after it began to reassess its involvement in the scheme.

A report due to go before councillors next week reveals that the authority is involved in a “positive dialogue” with the retailer’s design team about a ground floor unit in the centre.

The company - intended to be a flagship store in the new development - appeared to have withdrawn from the project entirely in November 2017, before it emerged in January this year that it was considering a smaller presence than previously planned.

The Reel cinema chain remains the only operator to have signed an agreement to lease a unit, but so-called heads-of-terms agreements have also been reached with Loungers bar and restaurant and an unnamed leisure and restaurant chain.

Lettings agents are in discussions with other potential occupants - including a national gym chain - and the development is scheduled to open shortly before Christmas 2019.

The report also reveals that there will soon be more car parking spaces available in the town centre than ever before, with over a hundred being added by the end of this year.

Loss of parking space on the Flat Iron car park during the construction of the Market Walk extension has caused consternation amongst opposition councillors and some retailers.

By mid-November 2018, an extra 140 spaces will be available, following the extension of the Friday Street long stay car park - although only 115 of them will be available during the Christmas ice rink event.

But before then, there will be 125 fewer spaces during September and 75 fewer throughout October, as phase 2 works on the project begin.

On Tuesdays during that time, council workers will be required to take a park and ride shuttle bus from Woodlands Road in order to ease pressure on a day when parking in the town is at a premium.

Meanwhile, the opposition Conservative group is demanding the council is provided with a viability report for the development - together with projections for the rental income which it will deliver by the mid-2020s - before the second phase of the scheme gets underway.

In a notice of motion which will be debated at next week’s meeting, opposition leader Cllr Alan Cullens cites a recent report from consultants Deloitte which warns that an upturn in fortunes for the UK’s shopping centres will “in many cases...never come”.