Developer submits plans to beat Beverley’s retail ‘dead zone’

A planning application has been submitted to meet growing demand for retail space in Beverley and avoid the town having to turn away retail investment.

Regeneration company Wykeland Group has applied for consent for an overall increase in retail space at the Flemingate centre and to allow for units of sizes that are currently unavailable anywhere in the centre of Beverley, to support the continuing prosperity of the town centre.

The application is aimed at avoiding retailers investing elsewhere, such as Hull, York and Leeds, because units of the size they require are not available to them in Beverley and ensuring the town is best placed to compete with alternative retail destinations.

The planning application is supported by a letter from retail property consultant Michael Fawley, who has 30 years’ experience in the industry and advises some of the UK’s largest property companies and retailers.

He said: “There is currently a ‘dead zone’ of retail units of between 1,000 and 5,000 sq ft that Beverley cannot provide as the largest currently available retail property in the town centre is 914 sq ft. That means Beverley faces turning away quality retailers who will go to other towns and cities that can match their requirements.

“This application aims to ensure those retailers can come to Beverley, to contribute to the continuing development of the town as a vibrant and sustainable retail and visitor destination.”

Current planning consent prohibits any more retail units below 5,000 sq ft at Flemingate. However, the new application suggests this restriction should never have been imposed. It was a late introduction at the original planning meeting in 2009 when councillors considered both the Flemingate development and an out-of-town scheme at Grovehill Road in Beverley.

The Grovehill Road scheme, which has not proceeded, was primarily for an out-of-town retail park taht would typically feature large units such as DIY, furniture and electrical goods retailers.

In contrast, Flemingate is a mixed-use retail and leisure development which extends the town centre with a retail offering comprising stores of different shapes and sizes, featuring both multiples and independent traders.

The restriction on units below 5,000 sq ft was also made prior to any marketing of the Flemingate scheme and in very different market conditions.

The application points out that a recent audit found Beverley had only 14 vacant and available retail units, 4.6% of the total number of units and well under half the national average of 11.3%.

Furthermore, there are 272 units under 5,000 sq ft in Beverley town centre while, due to the restriction, Flemingate has just seven.

Mr Fawley said: “As time goes on retail requirements change. We are now 10 years down the line from when the Flemingate plans were developed and the market has changed massively since then,” he said.

“Across the country we are seeing retailers wanting less and less space. There are a number of factors in that – the impact of the recession, the rise in internet sales and improved logistics, which mean retailers require less back-of-house space.

“You need flexibility as time goes on to respond to changing retail trends and retailer needs. If retailers can’t get a unit in Beverley that meets their requirements – and, at the moment, they simply can’t – they will go somewhere else.

“Beverley is a prosperous and growing retail destination. This is about ensuring the conditions are in place to ensure it can continue to grow, for the benefit of the town and the wider East Riding.”

Julian Minshall, Chair of the Beverley and District Chamber of Trade, said: “Beverley has seen continuing growth in trade from a diverse and attractive mix of multiple and independent retailers, which has enabled the town to out-perform other retail centres.

“There is clearly strong demand from retailers to come into the town, particularly for shop sizes between 1,000 and 5,000 sq ft, and this application is aimed at satisfying that need.

“Approval for these proposals will ensure the continuing growth and expansion of Beverley’s retail offer, which can only help to increase footfall and spend within our historic market town.”

The 16-acre Flemingate development – Beverley’s largest-ever regeneration scheme – is a £120m investment in the town by Hull-based Wykeland. It includes big-name brands such as Debenhams and H&M as well as local independent retailers. A new campus for East Riding College, 80-bed Premier Inn hotel, six-screen digital cinema, Parkway, and 130 homes are already complete.