A major revamp of Rochdale town centre has taken a step forward after councillors recommended the project for planning approval.
Rochdale Borough Council’s planning committee granted planning permission to the first phase of a major regeneration project at a specially convened meeting yesterday.
The proposals by developer Genr8 for the 200,000 sq ft scheme includes 24 retail and leisure units, around 350 car parking spaces and a six-screen cinema.
Marks & Spencer and Next have already signed up as anchor tenants for 50,000 sq ft and 22,000 sq ft of retail space respectively.
Due to the size of the scheme the proposals have now been passed to communities secretary Savid Javid to give final approval.
If endorsed by Mr Javid, work is expected to start in the summer, with demolition contractor Connell Brothers already on site.
Councillors also gave outline planning permission for the second phase of the project, which will include a 120-bed hotel, offices, a maximum of 100 residential units and additional commercial space.
The plans were approved despite objections from Mars Real Estate Investment, which owns the nearby Exchange Shopping Centre.
The firm had asked for measures to limit the impact and ability of the new scheme to “poach existing retailers” from the Exchange Shopping Centre by attracting them into new units at Rochdale Riverside.
However, Genr8’s planning consultants DPP dismissed the objection, arguing that it was “nothing more than a commercial objection from a property owner seeking to maintain the status quo within the town centre for their own financial gain and restricting retail competition at the cost of a truly vital and viable town centre”.
DPP added the objection was “not only considered unnecessary but it will actively harm the vitality and viability of the town centre and the planned investment at Rochdale Riverside”.
The first phase of the scheme has been designed by architects TP Bennett, while Arcadis is acting as project manager.
Mike Smith, partner at Genr8 Developments, said: “We’ve worked very closely with the Council on Rochdale Riverside to ensure that our approach to this important scheme is in line with its own aspirations for the site and the Borough.
”We recognise that this scheme will play a significant role in the regeneration of Rochdale and it is therefore imperative that we attract the right mix of occupiers to boost the local economy and establish Rochdale as a key leisure and retail destination.
He added that Genr8 was in discussions with other retail brands and that more announcements would be made “in the coming weeks”.