K Village proposal poses a real dilemma for South Lakeland District Council planners

News that administrators running K Village want to relax planning conditions at the Kendal site is set to present a real dilemma for planners at South Lakeland District Council.

The £100m shopping centre, built on the site of the former K Shoes factory, was hailed by its bosses as the ‘focal point for the regeneration of Kendal’ at its fanfare launch in July 2010.

But the centre has clearly suffered as a result of the recession and some units have remained empty, with a string of businesses pulling out, citing poor sales.

While the previous factory outlet on the site regularly attracted thousands of shoppers and coachloads of visitors, the new centre has often seemed quiet, although flagship events there like the recent Woolfest drew in large crowds.

Now the administrators have launched a rescue plan involving lifting current conditions that mean that, on the whole, only factory outlets can operate at the site.

They hope allowing more mainstream stores will boost visitor numbers and create more jobs.

But what of the effect on Kendal town centre?

Administrators argue it would be minimal and K Village would complement the town centre.

It remains to be seen if high-profile retail giants would flock to K Village. Even if there was demand, the centre is not so big it could take a large number, so the site is not going to become a new ‘town centre’ in its own right.

K Village is part of Kendal’s heritage now and it is arguable that the benefits to its survival chances of letting in a few big names - preferably those not already operating in Kendal - outweigh the harm the proposal might cause to the town centre.

Nevertheless, some visitors might choose to go there instead of spending time in the real heart of Kendal and traders have a right to be wary of anything that might reduce their footfall.

It is clear planners face a huge challenge in weighing up the merits and potential disadvantages of this proposal.


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