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Bristol Post: Plans to double size of The Mall, Cribbs Causeway, held up as Government calls public inquiry...

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Plans to double the size of The Mall at Cribbs Causeway could be held up for months or even years after the Government called a public inquiry into the scheme.

The £300 million expansion, which includes dozens of new shops and restaurants, a hotel, flats and an indoor ski centre, was given planning permission by South Gloucestershire Council in November.

But the scale of the scheme, which is predicted to create 3,000 new jobs if it goes ahead, meant that it had to be 'called in' for a final decision by Communities Secretary Sajid Javid MP.

And tonight it has been announced the the Cabinet minister wants to hold a public inquiry into the application.

That means a planning inspector must be appointed, hear evidence from the applicants, supporters and opponents of the scheme before making a recommendation to the Mr Javid.

The process is likely to take months and quite possibly more than a year to complete.

The decision has been made after objections to the scheme were raised by operators of nearby shopping centre.

Peter Cooper, the director of the Bristol Alliance, which runs Cabot Circus, said it could lose £123 million of trade and 1,500 jobs over five years.

Former Bristol Mayor George Ferguson also objected to the scheme.

In January, John Penrose, Conservative MP for Weston-super-Mare, wrote to Mr Javid calling on him to block the shopping centre's 35,000 square expansion over fears of its effect on Weston's retailers.

He argued the extension could damage Weston's regeneration and make its "rebirth harder to achieve" - even though the town is more than 20 miles away.

Mr Penrose said Weston stood to lose £39 million in trade by 2021 and making the town's "rebirth harder to achieve".

He said: "This isn't a final decision, but it means that Weston's voice is being heard loud and clear, and I'm delighted the Minister clearly understands the strength of local concerns about its impact on the wider local economy of places like Weston, and central Bristol too."

In a letter explaining Mr Javid's decision, planning minister Gavin Barwell said: "In general, planning applications are only called in when there are issues of more than local importance involved.

"The Secretary of State has indicated, however, that there are occasions when it is right for him to decide the issue, normally following a public inquiry."

Philip Vaughan, director of Development and Construction at M&G Real Estate, on behalf of the owners of Cribbs Causeway, said: "We have been advised of the Secretary of State's decision to call-in the locally approved application for the extension of The Mall at Cribbs Causeway.

"We will continue to engage, as appropriate, with this process in order to present the significant investment this application offers for South Gloucestershire and the South West as a whole."

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