Multi-million pound plans to redevelop the Bridge Centre in Chippenham have been dealt a serious blow with the decision by TK Maxx not to open there.
Instead the fashion retailer is to open at Methuen Park beside Next.
With TK Maxx choosing to go to Methuen Park, the Bridge Centre development is now likely to lose its anchor tenant Marks & Spencer Simply Food, secured on a conditional basis.
Without anchor tennants the sale of the Bridge Centre, owned by Wiltshire Council, is likely to be delayed, which could affect the building of Chippenham’s skatepark. The £275,000 skatepark, to be built at Monkton Park, was to be funded by the sale of the Bridge Centre.
Key to TK Maxx’s decision was the granting of planning permission to put in a mezzanine floor in the Methuen Park unit, which was granted exclusively for use by the cut-price designer label department store and is not valid for any other retailer.
Chippenham Civic Society and others bitterly objected to the application, saying it threatens the Bridge Centre/Bath Road car park development.
Terry Dinham, development manager for Peveril Securities’ Bridge Centre scheme, said: “We believe M&S aren’t going to continue with us, we’re likely to lose them.
"We were hoping theTK Maxx application would be refused. In fact we were confident it would be. We still don’t understand why they made that decision as it’s not supporting their own planning strategy to allow more A1 retail out of town.
"We are dumbfounded. We’ll have to look at other options. It is still our intention to go ahead with the scheme but we’ve got to find some other retailers.”
Peveril’s agent, Signet Planning, said TK Maxx had agreed to take up Peveril’s offer if the other was refused.
Wiltshire councillor Chris Caswill said it was a disaster for Chippenham town centre.
He said: “I’ve never heard of planning permission being given on the grounds of one particular shop going in, it’s extraordinary.”
M&S would not reveal if it had made a decision.
A spokesman said: “We are keen to bring an M&S Simply Food store to Chippenham and are looking at potential sites, but cannot give any further details at this stage.”
The council’s retail consultant advised against permission for the Methuen Park unit.
GVA director Matthew Morris wrote to the council: “The application site is not allocated for retail development and lies outside of the defined boundary of Chippenham town centre... requires new retail floorspace which, in physical terms, is not allowed for under the extant permission.
“We consider the Bath Road car park should be the focus for the council’s assessment.”
But Wiltshire Council’s case officer said: “The proposed occupier TK Maxx has confirmed that the [Bath Road] development would not be suitable or viable for them.
“If planning permission is not forthcoming for this scheme, it is likely Chippenham will be by-passed, especially now planning permission has been granted for a store in Trowbridge.”
TK Maxx declined to comment.