Bluewater expansion set to create 2,300 jobs as five new buildings and expansion on the way
PUBLISHED: 09:36 25 April 2017 | UPDATED: 13:03 26 April 2017
Dartford council approved plans from the shopping centre
Plans to reconfigure Bluewater Shopping Centre and create thousands of new jobs have received a mixed reception from local councils.
The shopping centre in Greenhithe is hoping to create 2,300 jobs by expanding its West Village, near the shopping centre’s lake, and by creating five new shopping units to boost the size of existing shops at the centre.
Gravesham Borough Council voiced concerns in the application, saying there is “no compelling evidence to suggest Bluewater needs to expand or is under any threat by competitors”.
But Jeremy Kite, leader at Dartford Borough council, says it isn’t for town centres to stop the success of shopping centres.
“We have to accept that people want to shop at Bluewater, and it’s not for us to turn the clock back and try and change that.
“The challenge for Dartford is to focus on what brings people to our town centre, and that is our markets and our independent traders.”
“The best town centres are adapting and across the country the successful ones are encouraging more people to live there so the traders, pubs and restaurants they need are only a walk away.
“That’s what’s gradually happening in Dartford and our High Street occupancy rates are actually good and getting better.”
Robert Goodman, general manager at Bluewater added: “We welcome the planning committee’s unanimous decision to approve the application. The proposals to evolve Bluewater are important to ensure it continues to provide its guests with a comprehensive and compelling offer. They will also create up to 500 jobs during construction and 2,300 once complete. Following the committee’s decision, our focus is now on working in partnership with our stakeholders on the detail of the proposals over the coming months.”
In a letter raising objection to the expansion, Gravesham council warned of a swell in traffic around the shopping centre, which could affect patients travelling to the nearby Darent Valley Hospital.
But Dartford Labour leader Jonathon Hawkes claimed traffic was an existing concern.
“It’s already a problem,” he said, “but I think it’s a problem for the government, not Bluewater, and with the improvements coming to the Dartford Crossing hopefully we will start to see an improvement.”
As mitigation for the development’s potential impact Bluewater is expected to payout £612,000 in town centre improvements for Dartford, with £519,000 each for Gravesend and Chatham town centres.
Cllr Kite explained where else the money can go: “It can help provide mitigation for things that will concern people such as traffic, air quality and public transport improvements to and from the site.”
Plans suggest the shopping centre could move its lake as part of the development of West Village, but Cllr Hawkes urged the centre not to lose sight of the community.
He said: “Bluewater might be a commercial space, but there’s also a lot of community uses there such as the parks and the lake, what I wouldn’t want to see is growth at the expense of community spots.
“This is good news in terms of investment and jobs, and I’m not adverse to things being moved around, as long as services for the community are still there, but I think Bluewater realise that those spots are part of what make them so attractive for visitors.”
The shopping centre hopes to change the layout of the square outside the West Village, where Pizza Express is based, and reconfigure the nearby car park.
Under proposals there is no suggestion that the number of car parking spaces could increase, while the centre’s coach park is also expected to move to make up for the loss of spaces in the West Village expansion.
The coach park could potentially be moved next to the site’s security offices.