WORK on a multi-million pound scheme to bring major high street shops into the centre of Whiteley is under way.
The redevelopment will see big stores Marks & Spencer and clothes chain Next open up on the site of the old shopping centre next to Tesco.
Last year, the failed outlet shopping village was demolished in a bid to bring a more traditional town centre into Whiteley.
The £64m development will have more than 50 shops, including national and local retailers, restaurants and cafes.
Councillor Mike Evans, chairman of Whiteley Parish Council, said it was a new start for the residents of Whiteley and beyond.
‘The old shopping centre didn’t meet our needs,’ he said.
‘So we’re quite excited by this. We’re going to have high street shops which meet the needs of the Whiteley community.
‘We did a survey and asked people what types of shops they wanted.
‘The co-ownership has worked very closely with us.
‘It’s the commitment to the community which is good to see from such a major developer.
‘That’s why the whole project is so exciting.
‘We have had hundreds of people coming and saying how delighted they are that they are getting these types of shops.
‘The feedback that we have had has been so positive.’
The scheme is estimated to bring in around 1,000 new jobs, giving an economic boost to the area.
Cllr Evans added: ‘It’s a great honour for us. We are chuffed to bits.
‘We are working together to get it right – that’s the main thing.’
The development is being run by the Whiteley Co-Ownership trust, a joint venture between the owners of the site Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) and British Land.
Other retail units that have signed up include H&M, Boots, JD Sports, Bank, Sports Direct, and Starbucks.
The design of the centre includes energy efficient features with roof-mounted solar panels.
Kevin Freeman, senior project manager for site developer, Mclaren, said: ‘The demolition works was the first phase which has been completed.
‘The main earth works and ground works will start over the next couple of weeks.
‘By Easter you will start to see the size of the buildings develop.’
He said the scheme also linked in well with Winchester City Council’s plans to build an extra 3,000 homes in the north of Whiteley.