2008 has been a one-off year for shopping centre development, but the coming decade will have plenty of interest, despite tough times

Another year of shopping centre openings like 2008 is unlikely to be seen again in the next decade. The changes in our projected list of 2018’s top towns reflect a development pipeline that is becoming thinner as the current boom draws to an end and the credit crunch hits developers.

Nevertheless, while the top four locations – London, Glasgow, Birmingham, Manchester – will remain the same, there will be significant changes in Experian’s 2018 list of Top Towns. Some places that have benefited from recent developments will slip back as others take their turn to experience the lift given by major new developments. Those cities that have not been the subject of developments will slip yet further.

This list – which includes standalone centres as well as the city centres in our main rankings – includes as its most striking entrant the desolate London suburb of Stratford, poised to benefit from a huge Westfield development ahead of the Olympic Games in 2012.

Leeds and Liverpool will change places. Liverpool has been boosted by the opening of Grosvenor’s Liverpool One scheme, but Leeds will reclaim the lead with Land Securities and Caddick’s Trinity Leeds and Hammerson and Town Centre Securities’ Eastgate and Harewood Quarter developments.

Of the other cities set to be winners, Cardiff’s St David’s 2 scheme, Newcastle’s Eldon Square extension and the expansion of Milton Keynes’ thecentre:mk will lift their cities’ status over the next decade. Croydon, Oxford and Portsmouth will also move up.

Success is not just about new schemes, though. Aberdeen is set for significant development, but some fear an oversupply of space and as it already dominates its catchment in the northeast of Scotland, it will not move up the rankings.

One interesting trend is the resurgence of some long-neglected cities. With Hammerson’s Sevenstone scheme, Sheffield city centre will move to within two places of its near-neighbour Meadowhall centre. The city’s retail offer was devastated by the arrival of the Meadowhall out-of town scheme in the late 1980s, but the John Lewis-led city centre scheme, due for completion in 2013, will redress the balance.

Other out-of-town schemes, such as Gateshead’s MetroCentre, Bristol’s Cribbs Causeway and Dudley’s Merry Hill, are set to slip down the rankings, while some of the more unloved city centres, such as Bradford and Wolverhampton, will get their moment in the sun.

So while we may not see another year like this again in the near future, the shopping centre world is going to remain a dynamic place over the decade ahead.