SIXTY jobs and a new Home Bargains store at the Peel Centre are on hold after councillors said the plan was a ‘Trojan horse’ designed to destroy Gloucester’s city centre.
The bargain home store wants to occupy two empty units between Hobbycraft and Gala Bingo and plans were submitted by Peel, owners of Gloucester Quays.
But city councillors have deferred making a decision for fear that allowing a change of use of the vacant units could open the floodgates for firms to ditch the city centre in favour of the Quays area.
The change of use would allow any store at the Peel Centre to sell food, drink, toys and perfumes – the sale of which could rival the city centre, planners say.
The permission would not be restricted to Home Bargains.
Councillor Jeremy Hilton (LD, Kingsholm and Wotton) said: “This application is by Peel, not by Home Bargains. Allowing this change of use, we could see whole the city centre shift down south. Don’t forget, Peel own a lot of land down there. Home Bargains could be a Trojan horse and we have got to be very careful.”
Planning officers want the Peel plan to be thrown out because they argue the former Marks and Spencer site, in Northgate Street, and the future Kings Quarter redevelopment could have been suitable city centre locations for the brand.
Peel bosses claim that the old M&S site is too big for Home Bargains and that the firm was not prepared to wait for five years for the Kings Quarter development.
Gareth Finch, planning manager for Peel, said: “Home Bargains have been trying to come to Gloucester for three years and these units have been empty for a long time.
“This letting is critical to the survival of the Peel Centre because of the relocation of the cinema. The centre faces a grave future if we don’t do this.
“Home Bargains cannot afford the rates at the M&S site, it is too big for them and they have not been approached by Stanhope for the Kings Quarter development. It is not surprising really because they are aiming at high end fashion.”
Stanhope lodged an objection to the plans arguing that it would result in ‘death by a thousand cuts’ for the Kings Quarter scheme.
Councillor Lisa Noakes (C, Barnwood) said: “A shop like this going to King’s Quarter? Over my dead body. We want high end fashion like Miss Selfridge. We want people flooding into Gloucester.
“These units at the Peel centre have been empty for a long time so let’s just let them get on with it.”
Councillor Gerald Dee (C, Tuffley) added: “This doesn’t compete with the city centre. These people are willing to take a risk and we have waited long enough.”