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Survival plan for K Village
A SURVIVAL plan for K Village has been launched almost a year after its owners went into administration with debts of £68 million.
Empty units in the £100m cen-tre could now be filled with new retailers – but only if council planners back the scheme.
The centre, which is home to 17 businesses, is currently rest-ricted to being a ‘factory outlet only’ selling seconds and discounted ‘end of line’ goods.
But administrators now want the rule lifting in a strategy which has been welcomed by some business leaders.
Anchor store Clarks and Costa Ltd are in favour – though small traders and the Federation of Small Business have mixed feelings.
South Lakeland District Council planners also have to be convinced it would not harm Kendal’s high street.
The move to ‘reinvigorate’ the three year-old centre comes after hopes of creating 300 jobs and attracting 4,000 coach parties a year were hit by the recession and consumer spending slump.
Now its asset managers, the London-based firm Global Mutual Properties Limited, want to ‘fulfill its ambition.’
The turnaround specialists, who are acting for Belfast-based KPMG, have transformed shopping centres nationwide.
KPMG were appointed administrators after Kendal Riverside Ltd went into administration in December 2012.
John Hansen, of KPMG, said: “We are taking every step we can to preserve and enhance the value of K Village as an asset. It is important to Kendal and still trading. We are doing everything we can and are now trying certain things strategically.”
Clarks says it plans to remain part of the centre.
And Derek Armstrong, of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, said: “Everyone agrees something needs to happen – the current offer is not working for K Village or the town. We need to enhance the offer by lifting restrictions.”
But one development expert, who declined to be named, suggested that SLDC might ask for a full planning application if the proposed changes were so different to those approved in 2006.
“K Village was meant to be complementary to, not in competition with, what Kendal town centre already offers,” he explained.
“SLDC may consider that this change is spreading what jam there is a little too thin.”
Speculation is circulating that stores like Primark, not currently in Kendal, could be eyeing occupation, although the firm declined to comment.
Manchester-based planning agents How Planning LLP rep-resent Global Mutual Properties and have asked SLDC to remove one planning condition and amend two others.
They want it to become a ‘non-food retail shopping facility’ with shops like those found in other centres. The Westmorland Shopping Centre declined to offer a view.
Steve Renshaw, for How Planning said: “The proposed minor relaxation of the goods that can be sold would enable more floorspace to be let, more jobs to be created and the re-invigoration of a facility that has the potential to bring more shoppers to Kendal.
“The development opened during 2010 and has not been as successful as originally hoped in attracting tenants due in part to the combined effect of the recession on consumer spending and the strict conditions applied to the retail floorspace.”
He said it would not ‘result in any significant adverse impact’ on the town centre.
SLDC has the authority to lift the conditions but it would be at least eight weeks before any proposal goes before councillors.
However, Coun Peter Thornton, leader of SLDC, said: “The job of agents is to maximise the centre’s options while the job of the council’s planning department is to look at it from the point of view of the economic health of the whole town. It is clear that the agents would rather sell it as a going concern than a closed one.”
Richard Greenwood, of Cumbria Tourism, said: “We do need to look very carefully at alternative uses for the shop units at the site but we should be aware of the impact that may have on Kendal town centre too.”
Paul Foster, of the Federation of Small Businesses, which has 800 members in South Lakeland, said: “The initial conditions were correct. While no-one wants to see empty units, there is no guarantee of what it might end up with.”
Jeff Waites, of Carlsons Fishing Tackle, in Kirkland, said: “There isn’t money to go round for all the shops in Kendal as it is. Creating more when there aren’t sufficient shoppers is the problem.”
Adrian Norris, of Kirkland News, said: “It’s a difficult one, you want more people in this part of town and everyone’s thought that was what K Village was going to do. But if you bring in direct competition it can take business away. I’d love it to have shops bringing people in, but not if it drags people out of the town.”
Geoff Hool, of Maelstrom, added: “Kendal needs lots of choice and excitement or it will die. The more the merrier, we need to grow and prosper.”
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