A PUBLIC inquiry will decide the fate of a proposed 100 million expansion to the Merry Hill Centre at Dudley, in the West Midlands.
Developer Chelsfield, the new owner of the centre, plans to create one of the biggest shopping complexes in Europe. It wants to build a 45,000 sq m
extension, which will include a department store, more shops, a food court and 2,000 parking spaces.
Chelsfields planning application has already been approved by Dudley Council, but last December environment secretary John Gummer ordered a public inquiry. This started on June 4 and is due to finish on July 19.
The scheme faces opposition from 17 councils, including Birmingham, and 12 property developers. They all claim the extension would take trade away from other areas and cause traffic congestion.
Centro, the West Midlands public transport authority, has put a holding objection on the scheme. It wants to promote better provision and use of public transport and aims to ensure 30 per cent of visitors travel to the centre by this means.
Centro is also looking into the possibility of a metro line to Merry Hill. The line would be
an extension to the first section of the Midland Metro light rail link between Birmingham and Wolverhampton, which is expected to be open by 1998.