Longbridge leisure development set for approval

How the Longbridge leisure scheme would have looked

Plans for a massive new leisure scheme at the heart of Longbridge Town Centre look set for approval.

The proposals, submitted by developer St. Modwen, form phase three of the new town centre and include a two-storey nine-screen cinema – to be operated by The Light, a gymnasium – operated by The Gym – and half a dozen new restaurants.

St. Modwen said the intention was to create a ‘leisure quarter’ to help sustain the town centre concept.

The application site extends to a total area of 0.66 hectares and is bounded to the north by Austin Park, to the west by Austin Avenue, the project’s Phase Four site and the roundabout that links the A38 Bristol Road from the M5 towards Birmingham City Centre with Lickey Road, to the south by the soon to be completed Extracare retirement complex and a site proposed for family housing.

To the east, there will be a new town centre surface car park, with the western half of the parade taken up by large format retail units and their associated service yard.

The proposals, submitted in July, attracted several comments during a public consultation, many questioning whether another cinema so close to the existing multiplex in Rubery was really justified.

Several members of the public said they would prefer to see further retail development in the area.

Responding to these issues, St. Modwen said the cinema occupier was confident there was a local market for the total number of screens that would become available. It added the Longbridge scheme was also proposed to be of a higher quality in terms of comfort, audio and visual standards, as well as catering, than existing rival facilities.

“Attracting a cinema to a centre such as Longbridge should be regarded as a significant coup,” it said.

Likewise, it said the health and fitness market – particularly in the 24-hour / value sector within which the proposed occupier operates – was growing rapidly, and is highly competitive.

“It is not unusual to have a choice of gyms in close proximity to one another, but again a presence within a centre is to be encouraged,” added the developer.

Respondents had said they favoured the presence of retailers such as Next, New Look, River Island, Top Shop, H & M, Primark or Matalan, or large space occupiers such as IKEA, Debenhams and Homebase, and specialists such as Pets at Home and Body Shop.

However, St. Modwen said such a move might fall foul of planners because it could jeopardise the viability of existing town centres such as that of Northfield.

“From a commercial perspective this (more retailers) might be appealing to St Modwen but we are mindful of the planning challenges this would create in terms of adopted policy and the city council’s previous stance around this point,” it said.

The plans have been recommended for approval at Thursday’s city planning committee.