Pretty much everyone agrees that the A30 frontage in Camberley needs drastic improvement. Indeed, the borough council has been working closely with The Mall to redevelop the whole ‘London Road Block’.
A press release at the end of 2012 said “The Mall Fund has appointed Centros as its development manager for an extension of up to 250,000 sq ft at the Mall in Camberley. …a planning application is expected to be submitted by the end of next year.” And “Surrey Heath Borough Council has also appointed Montagu Evans to work alongside … Centros.” No planning application emerged at the end of 2013, however.
In September 2013 The Mall carried out a rather brief exhibition/consultation of its plans, both to upgrade its existing property and to extend up to the A30.
As part of the exhibition, there was a statement by The Mall that said “Further consultation will take place next year”. We’re pretty certain, however, that no such consultation took place.
In December 2013, The Mall made a statement to the Planning Inspector who was carrying out the Examination of the borough’s Town Centre Area Action Plan. The Inspector subsequently wrote (in 2014) in his report “The planning application for this scheme [the A30 redevelopment] is programmed to be submitted this year, with construction beginning in year 4 (2018).” However, contrary to that report, no application has yet been submitted.
(We believe that it was almost certainly in anticipation of the stated timetable that the borough council produced its rather contentious Vision document and video last year.)
In October 2014, the now-owners of The Mall said that they hoped to execute a Development Agreement (DA) and to submit a planning application in the first half of this year (2015). Neither of these happened.
In May this year, The Mall’s owners stated that they intended to “define their commitment” to the redevelopment by the year’s end. This seems to imply that there was no defined commitment as recently as two months ago. Nor, it appears, had any anchor store been signed up by then.
In July this year, the borough council published its end of year report for 2014-2015. This confirmed that the DA and planning application targets had not been met (shown in red, below).
This is all very depressing. The one piece of possible good news is that the acquisition of properties necessary in order to enable the redevelopment is apparently still underway. None of the vacant premises in the London Road Block seems to be for sale on the open market.
Now, the future of retail is uncertain. Click and Collect and internet sales are eating into traditional shopping. Although Camberley has fewer empty retail units than the national average, we still have quite a few. The ground floors of the Premier Inn and the Travelodge are still un-let. The corner unit of the Atrium is still empty. There are numerous empty smaller shops in the High Street.
We stress that what is written above is just one interpretation of published information. The Eye has no access to confidential discussions and documentation. However, overall, it seems to us that the destiny of the London Road Block is much more uncertain than has been painted in recent years.
For longer than we care to remember, we have been saying that the council needs a ‘Plan B’. Unless it has one, Camberley may well continue to decline in comparison to competing towns. Who will be to blame? Ask your local councillor some blunt questions – are they pushing for an alternative scheme to be produced and progressed, ‘just in case’?