Retail Property - Leicester City Council says yes to massive Midlands centre

Leicester City Council has given the go-ahead to Hammerson and Hermes' plans for a 645,000 sq ft (59,920 sq m) extension to The Shires shopping centre in Leicester.

The council is 'minded to grant consent' for the scheme, but, because of the size of the proposal, the decision has to be ratified by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) before formal consent can be given.

The£250 million project, called Shires West, will transform the existing 540,000 sq ft (50,165 sq m) centre into one of the UK's largest city centre retail attractions. With almost 1.1 million sq ft (102,190 sq m) of retail space it will be on a par with the Bullring in Birmingham and Manchester's Arndale Centre.

The developers need to start on site before next summer if they are to meet a commitment to John Lewis Partnership to deliver its 215,000 sq ft (19,975 sq m) anchor store in 2007. This will be JLP's major shop in the East Midlands area.

The developers are confident of gaining approval from the ODPM, because the scheme ticks many of the Government's boxes in its urban agenda. It occupies a brownfield city centre site and offers broad range of uses.

The plans include city centre housing and a leisure element, including a cinema and open public spaces. A multi-storey car park is also planned, which will be linked to the malls by a bridge spanning the city's ring road.