St. Modwen forced to scrap leisure plan after failing to attract operators

How the Longbridge leisure scheme would have looked

St. Modwen has been forced to scrap plans for a new leisure-led development at its flagship scheme in Longbridge because it has been unable to attract sufficient interest from operators.

The developer, which is based at Longbridge, has now resorted to Plan B and has proposed the construction of a new supermarket on the land previously earmarked for the leisure scheme.

The situation came to light in a statement submitted in support of the supermarket application.

The statement, prepared by planning consultancy Planning Prospects, which was commissioned by St. Modwen, said: “Planning permission was previously granted for a leisure-based scheme. It has proven not to be possible to secure sufficient occupier interest to deliver that scheme. It has therefore become necessary to pursue an alternative approach for this site.”

Whether the alternative use will be capable of generating the 140 jobs anticipated as part of the leisure use remains to be seen.

Plans approved in September would have seen a 0.66ha site redeveloped to form phase three of the Longbridge town centre scheme.

The leisure-led scheme included a two-storey nine-screen cinema, which would have been operated by The Light, a gymnasium – operated by The Gym – and half a dozen new restaurants.

Questions were raised about the viability of the proposals when the original plans were submitted to the city council last July.

Several people queried whether another cinema so close to an existing multiplex in Rubery was really justified.

The public consultation also showed members of the public would prefer to see further retail development in the area.

Many 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.

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

The alternative plans propose a discount supermarket, and while no operator is attached to the scheme at this stage, it is likely to be of the Aldi or Lidl variety.

This has been done deliberately so the store does not conflict with existing food retailers in Longbridge such as Sainsbury’s and the Food Hall within the large Marks & Spencer unit.

The planning statement adds: “The current proposal is intended to bring a different form of grocery retail to complement the existing offer.

“(While) the application is not submitted with a named retailer, St. Modwen have received expressions of interest to take the site from operators in this market.”

The plans submitted to Birmingham City Council include site preparation, construction of the supermarket, car parking for 110 cars, landscaping and access work.

The scheme will enclose the space created by the first two phases of the Longbridge development so as to “bookend” the heart of Longbridge.

The supermarket building would extend to 3,100m², with a retail sales area of up to 1,400m² with the remainder dedicated to delivery, storage, staff welfare and other back of house activities.

Chris Newsome, Development Director, St. Modwen said: “We are incredibly proud of Longbridge – it is a special place, and we strive to make it a centre for everyone with a great legacy.

“We are keen to work with all stakeholders to ensure that Longbridge does deliver to the community, and discussions are ongoing with all options being considered.”

The Longbridge site

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