CHIPPENHAM councillors are calling for a major rethink on the central Bath Road redevelopment.
A planning application was expected to be submitted two years ago for an upmarket retail developement connecting the site of the Bridge Centre with Bath Road, transforming the middle of the town.
Names on the table were Next, TK Maxx, Marks & Spencer Simply Food and Lidl. But with Next choosing to go out of town to Methuen Park, and TK Maxx following suit, anchor tenant M&S Simply Food, secured on a conditional basis, is likely to pull out.
Town councillor Sandy Webb, who runs a restaurant in the town centre, said: “In my opinion those councillors who voted for Next to go into the old Focus store should hang their heads in shame. It has condemned the town centre for future development.”
Wiltshire councillor Chris Caswill said: “TK Maxx getting planning permission at Methuen Park is a body blow to Chippenham.
"Wiltshire Council’s own policy is to give preference to the town centre; the core strategy has essentially been ridden rough-shod over.
“The first mistake was to allow Focus to split into three units. It was bitterly opposed by Chippenham Vision, Chamber of Commerce, Civic Society – everybody with an interest in the town centre.”
He feared the loss of prestigious names meant plans would be downgraded, leaving Chippenham with a cut-price complex in the centre of town.
Coun Caswill said: “Unless developers Peveril can come up with an alternative model which provides the high-quality boost to the town centre we all want, they ought to seriously look at calling it in. It is a disaster.”
The value the council gets for the land – cash earmarked for building Chippenham’s skate park – will depend on its end use.
Town councillor and Cherish Chippenham chair Melody Thompson said she would like to see developers Chippenham 2020 buy it.
She said: “It shouldn’t be used for a Hathaway retail park type of development. I don’t want to see naff tin sheds in the central place; I’d rather see something like St Stephen’s Place in Trowbridge, more grand buildings.
“I’d love to see a cinema right in the centre and more car parking spaces. I think we need more like 500 in the centre.”
Coun Webb suggested siting the proposed campus hub with youth services and a library there, and opening up the town centre to face the Brunel arches, which she said was one of the town’s greatest assets.