07:00 Sunday 17 November 2013

Fears retail park in Ely will 'destroy' city centre shops

Written byJORDAN DAY

Artist impression picture of the proposed new Ely Octagon Business Park. Artist impression picture of the proposed new Ely Octagon Business Park.

News that plans for a multi-million pound new retail park in Ely are set for approval has sparked fears for the future of the city centre’s shops.

Residents are worried that building Octagon Park - a huge out-of-town shopping and leisure development on land south of the Cambridgeshire Business Park in Angel Drove - will have a “devastating” impact on city centre trade.

The scheme, submitted by Healy Investments Ltd, has been in the pipeline for years and, as reported last week, is being recommended for approval by planners at East Cambridgeshire District Council.

The applicants say the new development will not only create hundreds of new jobs for local people, but also encourage more people to shop in Ely, instead of them having to travel to places like Cambridge.

But some locals disagree.

Lesley Springthorpe, of Ely’s Cam Drive, said: “I’m worried this out-of-town development will have a devastating impact on the city centre.

“Ely is a traditional cathedral city which is blessed with quirky, independent shops.

“Building a monstrous new retail park on the outskirts of town will make it like the majority of other towns or cities in the UK and I think that would be a great shame.

“It will also sway people away from the city centre as they’ll be able to park there and find everything they need in one place.”

Graeme Lymer, from Little Thetford, is also concerned.

He said: “I’m not for this new retail park at all. Part of what makes Ely so unique is its independent shops in the city centre and this will completely destroy them.”

The development would see a new Tesco superstore, a petrol station, a DIY store, a restaurant, six retail units, a hotel, pub and offices built on the site.

Andrew Olley, from the Ely Traders’ Assocation, was unavailable to comment, but in the past has described the scheme as a “Death Star development which will orbit Ely and suck the people, the trade and the heart out of Ely life.”

The development is being recommended for approval, subject to conditions, and a decision will be made by the council’s planning committee.

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