Record lets at Spalding as Springfields blooms

One of the final factory outlet centres to be built in the UK has opened 95 per cent let, setting a record for the sector.

Thornfield Properties' Spri-ngfields scheme at Spalding, Lincolnshire, has combined outlet shopping alongside the restoration of the town's Festival Gardens, originally built by local growers to boost the area's horticultural-based tourism industry.

Thornfield Properties chief executive Jason Marcus said: 'Springfields is not just a group of shops selling goods at a discount.'

Autonomy chief executive Alex Brick said: 'It's unusual to have a factory outlet next to a famous attraction. This was the largest hole in the UK that wasn't served by a factory outlet.'

According to Brick, interest in Springfields has bloomed 'because of the gardens, which are a known destination'.

Thornfield had 'developed a very good product, on time and on budget', he added.

Springfields drew 280,000 visitors during its first 20 days of trading, following a soft opening on April 22. It was officially opened by celebrity gardener Charlie Dimmock.

A target of 2 million visitors has been set for the first year.

'We've had a great start,' said Springfields centre director Richard Broadhead.

Last week, Thornfield submitted a planning application for a controversial office and retail scheme at London's historic Smithfield Market.

The project would include 100,000 sq ft (9,290 sq m) of retail space on the site of Smithfield's closed General Market. Marcus said: 'We expect there to be people who will not want to see this happen.'