Top retail boss says Macclesfield redevelopment plans ‘yesterday’s idea’

On a recent visit to Macclesfield, retail boss Bill Grimsey told Wake up Macclesfield campaigners that Cheshire East’s plans for a new shopping street are an example of the type of catch-up development that might have made sense five years ago but is now outdated.

The Wake up Macclesfield group, who are acting to raise awareness of the development proposals, invited Bill to visit the town because of his retail expertise and keen interest in the subject of town centre decline. His 45 years in retail have included stints at the helm of Wickes, Iceland and Focus, plus time on the board of Tesco, and his recent book, ‘Sold Out’, quickly became a retail category best-seller. The book gives his analysis of the reasons for the decline of the high street, and puts forward a vision for town centres as ‘domestic living centres’, where housing and community uses replace excess retail space.

Campaigners took Bill on a tour of the town centre and showed him the site of the proposed new buildings. Giving his views on the plans, he said: “With the nature of retail changing faster than ever, it would be a folly to build retail space on this scale in Macclesfield. The rapid growth in online shopping is just one of the factors that will make the future very different. Even if retailers believe a shop on the new Silk Street is a good idea now, that doesn’t mean it will be by the time the development is due to open in 2016. If the development does go ahead, it will unquestionably increase the over-supply of space in the town, and would not be in the best interests of the community.”

Bill also told campaigners that removing Churchill Way and Exchange Street car parks would disadvantage shops in the traditional town centre. The likely result would be a rise in the number of empty shops, leading to decay and a strong possibility of increased criminality. He questioned whether the local authority had plans in place to manage this knock-on effect on the older parts of the town centre.

“We were really pleased Bill was able to take the time to visit Macclesfield,” said Wake up Macclesfield spokesperson, Beverley Moore. “It’s a great boost to hear an objective expert in the field support the arguments we are making and confirm that only a very different approach has any chance of giving us the thriving town centre we all want to see.”

Issued 10/12/2012

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