The proposals to upgrade and extend the Serpentine Green shopping centre have been enthusiastically welcomed by 800 or so people who visited an exhibition held recently in Hampton.
The plans include additional shops, a large unit for leisure uses, an outdoor ‘town square and a decked car park.
The prospect of leisure uses appears to have grabbed the public attention and top of he list was a swimming pool, with a bowling alley, indoor skiing and a climbing wall also favoured.
The scheme is said to cost £45 million and will create hundreds of construction and permanent jobs.
So what’s not to like?
For residents of Hampton and its neighbours, the answer is; very little.
The difficulty comes when we look at the wider impact of such a large expansion of a district centre on the city centre and the other district centre nearby at Ortongate.
Will this proposal damage the viability and vitality of these two?
Ortongate is in a sorry state the causes being many fold and a mystery to most of us.
One thing for certain is that its lack of success in attracting retailers to fill its empty buildings can be put down to competition from Serpentine Green.
Adding to the retail and leisure offer of Serpentine Green will set back the recovery of Ortongate a number of years.
The city centre is also not in the best of health in shopping terms.
In 2015 when planning permission for the extensions to Serpentine Green, currently under construction, was applied for the assessment of the City Council planners was that the centre was too big for the population it served and that any increase in retail space might be detrimental to the city centre.
On balance it was not considered serious enough to justify a refusal, bearing in mind the buoyant state shopping in the city centre at the time.
There has been a good deal of activity since then.
Many shops have changed hands and many have been converted to restaurants. Queensgate has planning permission to; remodel one of the malls, slightly increase retail space, install a food court and a multi screen cinema. Their approval has almost certainly damaged the likelihood of a much needed regeneration of North Westgate based on a strikingly similar contents list. We live in unpredictable times where some stability and continuity in planning of our shopping and social infrastructure is needed. Any proposals which divert investment in shops, social and leisure facilities from the city centre should be resisted in the interests of maintaining and improving a city centre in which we can be proud. What may be best for Hampton may not be best for the city as a whole.
Peterborough Civic Society