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Bristol Post: Plan to double the size of Cribbs should be blocked - says MP

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Plans to allow The Mall at Cribbs Causeway to nearly double in size should be blocked as it could hit profits of smaller retailers - trading 23 miles away - according to an MP.

John Penrose, Conservative MP for Weston-super-Mare, has written to Communities Secretary Sajid Javid calling on him to block the shopping centre's expansion which would see a new wing built, in a development which would include dozens of new shops and restaurants.

It would also provide the centre with a hotel, a multi-storey car park and events plaza.

The 35,000 square metre extension was given the go-ahead in November after South Gloucestershire councillors were convinced by The Mall's promise to create 3,000 jobs through its £300 million investment.

The money also came with guarantees to invest in transport infrastructure, which will see a new bus station created for local and MetroBus services.

But Mr Penrose has raised objections, saying the extension could damage Weston's regeneration and make its "rebirth harder to achieve" - even though the town is more than 20 miles away from the north Bristol shopping centre.

According to retail assessments, it is predicted that 8.3 per cent of trade, worth £39 million, would be diverted away from Weston by 2021 if the mall was allowed to grow. The decline in profits could lead to one in 12 shops closing, said the MP.

He has called on the Government, which is currently reviewing the planning application, to overrule the council's decision for the good of the North Somerset seaside town's tourism and retail industry.

The MP said: "I've called on the minister to call in the planning application submitted by Cribbs, because it could threaten the excellent work the council, local businesses and many others have put in to regenerate our town and attract new visitors.

"High streets across the country are already under pressure from online shopping, and extra space at Cribbs could make Weston's rebirth harder to achieve.

"Weston is steadily becoming a more balanced, sustainable community, and making Cribbs even larger won't help at all. It's big enough already."

Due to the scale of the development, the Secretary of State had 21 days to call it in or approve it. Mr Javid is believed to still be reviewing the decision.

The resistance shown by Mr Penrose towards the Cribbs Causeway extension has not been shared by everyone in his party.

Filton and Bradley Stoke MP Jack Lopresti told the Bristol Post the development, which is in his constituency, has his full backing.

"I strongly support the Cribbs planning application and I wrote to the Secretary of State saying so in December," said the Tory backbencher.

"The very many benefits it would deliver include £316 million of investment, more than 3,000 new jobs, a package of almost £35 million of major transport and infrastructure upgrades, outstanding public space, much needed affordable housing and much else besides," he added.

Philip Vaughan, a director at M&G Real Estate, responded to Mr Penrose's criticisms on behalf of the joint owners of The Mall, saying: "The locally approved planning application for the extension of The Mall at Cribbs Causeway has been referred to the Secretary of State for review, and we await the outcome of this referral.

"The proposed plans for The Mall have received strong local support and we hope to see this process move forward to pave the way for this significant investment in the South West to commence soon."

A South Gloucestershire Council spokeswoman added: "The Secretary of State is still considering the application and therefore we have agreed to wait until he has completed his evaluation of the issues before issuing the decision notice."

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