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Solihull's Touchwood shopping centre unveils expansion plans

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Mon 09 Mar 2015

Solihull's Touchwood shopping centre unveils expansion plans

Solihull's Touchwood shopping centre is set to be transformed with an expansion that will see 30 new shops and restaurants added.

Public consultation has now begun on the scheme, which has been made possible through a development agreement signed in October between Touchwood's owners Lend Lease and Solihull Council.

It would see two existing council buildings demolished to make way for the 115,000 sq ft extension, with the council concentrating all its operations in the neighbouring Church Hill House building, its main headquarters.

It plans to use proceeds from the development to fund a complete refurbishment of Church Hill House while a number of other businesses would also be affected and Lend Lease has begun discussions with them.

It says the scheme forms part of Touchwood's "natural evolution" and responds to current demands from businesses in a fast-changing retail landscape.

Another key aim is a desire to increase the offer in Solihull's night-time economy, with around eight new restaurants and cafés set to form part of the expansion.

Lend Lease hopes to submit a planning application later this year, be on site in 2016 and complete the project in 2018.

It is estimated the expansion of the 650,000 sq ft centre will see the creation of 400 permanent jobs and 500 jobs during its construction.

Lend Lease senior development manager Alexandra Brown said: "We opened 15 years ago but have been in town for nearly 20 years, from the point where Touchwood was originally developed.

"Touchwood has been a very successful scheme for us and for the wider town centre but it is important we continue to evolve and refresh and keep pace with change in the retail industry. Also to cater to our shoppers' and guests' needs and wants.

"Obviously the town centre is thriving - it's a great town centre - and we want it to continue that way. We believe in the town centre and the future of Touchwood.

"A wider strand is food and beverages. We see there is a huge opportunity to bring more evening economy into the town centre and the proposals have been developed with that in mind. Part of the scheme will be restaurant-led and the courtyard will have a nucleus of cafés and restaurants."

 

As regards the fast-changing retail sector, Ms Brown added: "Fifteen years is a long time in any centre and the last 15 years have seen a huge change in retailing.

"The internet 15 years ago was virtually unheard of - certainly not the force it is now. That is a major change.

"Also, if you look at what is happing in surrounding places like Birmingham, it has had a lot of redevelopment with the Bullring and Grand Central opening soon among other things.

"The retailing landscape is changing and shopping is much more of a leisure pursuit than it once was. Retailer demands have changed - they want larger stores."

The new retail units in the Touchwood extension are expected to be double height to enhance retailers' visible profile and the plan is also to have one significantly larger retail unit.

The outline plans contain proposals for eight restaurants or cafés, with most set around a courtyard area to enable alfresco dining. The extension will also see an open thoroughfare and a covered one.

There will be a new opening onto Solihull High Street, which would involve a number of businesses, including Melvyn Danes estate agency, BB Boutique, Revital Health Shop and Letting Places, forced to move.

The Missoula bar and nightclub would also close as part of the development.

Ms Brown said the expansion comes in response to research which revealed there was scope for retail expansion across the town centre.

She added: "Solihull is a great town, a strong town and a thriving town but I think it is important that it continues to evolve."

9 March 2015  By Enda Mullen  www.birminghampost.co.uk

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