Gunwharf Quays owner applies to remove restrictions to size of shops to adapt to 'changes in the retail sector'

THE owner of Gunwharf Quays has applied to Portsmouth City Council to remove planning restrictions limiting the size of units at the shopping centre.
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Real estate giant Landsec said a condition of the 1998 planning permission for the development was hampering its efforts to meet modern demand requirements for retailers.

Under the original condition, controls were introduced meaning only one unit - or any antiques or craft markets - over 500sqm could be created and that that was limited to 1,100sqm.

Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth. Picture: Sarah Standing (041122-5281)Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth. Picture: Sarah Standing (041122-5281)
Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth. Picture: Sarah Standing (041122-5281)
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Since then, the council has approved one-off exceptions, including increasing the upper limit to 1,200sqm and allowing a further five units to be up to 1,00sqm in size.

But it has now called for the restrictions to be completely lifted saying it needed to be able to offer flexibility for both its existing occupiers and any potential new ones.

'This requirement arises from the changes in the retail sector since planning permission was originally granted,' a letter submitted with its application says. 'Importantly, it will allow Gunwharf Quays to respond quickly to modern operator requirements and continue to perform its established role as an important, regional shopping destination.'

It said its proposals would not increase the total amount of retail floorspace at the centre and would only allow it to reconfigure existing units.

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The company has contracted Savills to manage the application which was submitted at the end of last month.

Under the Portsmouth Plan, any city centre commercial development over 280sqm, including Gunwharf Quays, requires developers to demonstrate their scheme has no 'detrimental impact' on the Commercial Road shopping area (CRSA). This policy was introduced to protect the 'vitality and viability' of the high street.

Savills said the proposal would neither increase the overall amount of retail space nor turnover and so would not 'divert' trade away.

It added: 'In addition to this, there is a clear qualitative differentiation between the primary retail function of Gunwharf Quays and the CRSA.' It said only 13 of the 191 retail units in the area were larger than 1,000sqm.

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'The established format of premises within the CRSA is a greater number of smaller units selling a wide range of goods and retail services. In addition to the physical distinction, the format of retail space is different with traditional retailing within the CRSA and outlet shopping characterising Gunwharf Quays.'

It said this limited the amount of direct competition between the two and meant they 'provide a complementary commercial offer which together helps underpin the overall attraction and vitality and viability of Portsmouth city centre'.

The city council has set a deadline of January 23 for reaching a decision on whether to approve the removal of the condition.

Gunwharf Quays recently announced three luxury brands have opened stores at the shopping centre in time for Christmas. The new outlets are Sweaty Betty, LK Bennett and Hunter.

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Gunwharf Quays centre director, Yvonne Clay, said: ‘The appetite for activewear has been steadily growing in recent years, and we are seeing a demand for new fashion-led brands at outlet prices, which makes all stores ideal new additions to our line-up ahead of the festive shopping period.’