Plymouth is in a strong position and has anticipated the changing shape of city centres, Council leader Tudor Evans says.
He said: “We have said for a long time that we need to broaden the city centre offer so that people come in to Plymouth to spend their money and their time in different ways.
“Like other cities who look set to lose this brand, we were saddened to find ourselves on the list – but unlike many other cities, we not only have a plan, it has been underway for some time.”
The plan aims to attract new visitors to the city centre, people who visit to eat, to be entertained as well as to work, live and shop. Work has started on the £53 million Drake Circus Leisure, a 110-room hotel is being built on the site of the old Derry’s department store and The Box, the city’s new cultural attraction on North Hill is expected to bring 300,000 visitors a year.
Councillor Evans said: “That’s £140 million of projects already on-site right here, right now and there’s more to come.
“I’ve had a meeting with British Land and they have been working on a series of options for the New George Street block, which includes House of Fraser. We all want this amazing building to play a major role in the ongoing regeneration of Plymouth’s city centre. I can’t tell you what it will be, but I can tell you what it won’t be – it won’t be student accommodation.
He added: “The fact that we have one of the UK’s leading retail specialists responsible for the building provides some comfort. We will work tirelessly with British Land to progress these plans as quickly as possible.”
Shadow leader Ian Bowyer said the City Centre remains a cross-party priority and fully supports working closely with British Land. He said: “We have all been working to diversify the City Centre and have put exciting plans in place to deliver a major plan for public realm improvements to improve the look and feel of our City Centre. Our strong cross-party message will give British Land and other landlords confidence to invest in the long term. We are on the right path and must have the confidence to hold our course.”
Richard Wise, Head of Retail and Residential Development at British Land Plc reaffirmed their commitment to Plymouth. He said: “We choose the locations in which we invest very carefully. Our confidence in Plymouth’s future is evidenced by two recent decisions to extend our investment, first through our acquisition of New George Street and, second, our investment in the leisure extension at Drake Circus.
“Just as important, thriving retailers share our belief in Plymouth’s future prosperity. In the last few years we’ve introduced the likes of Apple, Jack Wills, Cath Kidston and Pandora to Drake Circus, which welcomes more than 18 million visitors every year. All of them recognise the appetite among Plymouth residents for these kinds of high quality, growing brands. Our analysis suggests that this wave of investment by exciting retailers will continue.”