Friday 14 June 2024
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Uncertain future for Nottingham’s Debenhams building

The chances of getting a new shop back into the vacant Debenhams building in Nottingham are now “quite remote”, a senior city councillor fears.

Cllr Graham Chapman spoke about the site as part of discussions on a plan to set out housing and employment opportunities in the city over the next decade.

Nottingham City Council is drawing up its portion of the Greater Nottingham Strategic Plan, a significant document setting out housing and employment opportunities across Nottingham, Gedling, Broxtowe and Rushcliffe through to 2038.

Councils across the Greater Nottingham region are working on the plan together to deliver a target of 49,900 homes by the end of the period.

Debenhams in Old Market Square

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Nottingham’s target is 25,780 homes, over half the target number for the region.

The document was discussed during a planning committee meeting on February 22, during which councillors and planners spoke of how it would impact the city centre and how redundant sites could be re-used.

Cllr Chapman (Lab), deputy chairman of the committee, said: “I think it is really important we get to grips with the bits of the city that have been hollowed out a bit.

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“One of the problems with alternative uses is, you know, you just need to take a look at Debenhams.

“It is a very, very difficult site to develop and the chances of getting retail back into there are probably quite remote.

“So I would like to concentrate on the city and specific retail sites and retail areas which may be redundant and work out what the alternatives are.”

The former retail store, on Long Row, is Grade-II listed and is historically known as the Griffin and Spalding building.

The retailer went into administration in 2019 and the brand was subsequently purchased by the Boohoo Group.

Boohoo however only carried over the online business and the store closed in May 2021.

Longmead Capital, an investment management company, took on the site on behalf of Long Row Properties Limited, which has owned the building since 2017.

Talks are now taking place on the future of the site.

As part of the Greater Nottingham Strategic Plan, more than 230,000 square metres of office space have been proposed across the region.

Other significant sites include the former Broadmarsh Centre, where 1,000 homes have been set out as part of the plan, and the Boots site.

The plan aims to establish 20-minute neighbourhoods across Nottingham, whereby residents can access everything they need from GP surgeries to shops without travelling too far afield.

Cllr Michael Edwards (Lab), the chairman of the committee, said planners were challenged by the rapid pace of change.

“I was talking to one member of the public who was quite critical of me, but she was actually quite optimistic and she thought the fashion against shopping in city centres will change and come back again,” he said.

“She felt there would be a new wave of reaction to people not getting the customer service they used to get in shops.

“How on earth you as planners are supposed to plan for changes in how we shop, and where we work and how we travel to work, which appears to be happening in cycles of two or three years, and you’re supposed to be planning [until 2038].

“That is quite a challenge for you.”

Paul Seddon, the council’s planning and regeneration director, added: “City centres and urban areas, but particularly city centres, are melting pots which have lots of things happening.

“Inherently it is about creating the context and encouragement so all that can happen.

“The retail experience is an interesting one. What we need to be encouraging is that mix of uses, those kinds of multiple things going on, multiple ownerships because they are inherently more resilient.”

A full draft of the plan is due out this year, with adoption planned by the end of 2024.

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