TWO major high street chains have signed up to be part of a new town centre redevelopment.
Marks and Spencer and clothes chain Next will be part of the £64m scheme at Whiteley, near Fareham.
Earlier this year, the failed outlet shopping village was demolished to make way for a more traditional town centre.
The addition of the massive stores means that more than half of the development’s 300,000 square feet of retail floor space has now been snapped up.
The M&S store will be 60,000sq ft and is expected to include its full range of goods, including food, while Next will take a 19,500sq ft store.
By comparison, the M&S store in Fareham Shopping Centre is 24,000sq ft.
Other big names already on board include H&M, Boots, JD Sports, fashion chain Bank, Sports Direct, Frankie & Benny’s and Starbucks.
Main rebuilding work is expected to start early next year and be completed in spring 2013.
Andrew Rollings, managing agent for the Whiteley development, said: ‘This is great news for Whiteley.
‘The new development includes many strong names and will provide an excellent shopping experience. Importantly, the centre will also include independent local retailers and new community facilities.’
The scheme is being overseen by the Whiteley Co-Ownership Trust, a joint venture between the site’s owners Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) and British Land.
And a new community hub, an extension to the Meadowside Leisure Centre, is already nearing completion.
Councillor Mike Evans, chairman of Whiteley Parish Council, said he was ‘delighted’, adding: ‘From the outset there has been a dialogue between the parish council and The Whiteley Co-ownership Trust and we will continue to work together to provide a shopping centre which better meets the needs of Whiteley residents.’
But Fareham Borough Council leader Cllr Sean Woodward has previously warned that the new development is too large for a community the size of Whiteley and will draw trade from other areas.
Fareham Shopping Centre manager Pam Marsden added: ‘Anything that draws shoppers away from Fareham as a whole is worrying for the town.’