DEVELOPERS Simons have confirmed retail giant Marks and Spencer has agreed to take an anchor store in the proposed Charles Street development in Dorchester town centre.
The development firm behind the controversial scheme has revealed it has been in negotiations with M&S over the second anchor store, after Waitrose signed up to the development back in 2011.
Simons says the size of the store and servicing arrangements have now been agreed and described the deal as a display of confidence in the town’s retailing future.
The proposed building will boast around 22,000 square feet of trading space over two floors including a Simply Food section at ground floor level and a cafe on the first floor.
The three-storey building will also have a collect by car facility accessed from an undercroft car parking level.
Mark Hawthorne from Simons Developments said: “We are delighted to have exchanged contracts with M&S and this is a substantial step towards getting the scheme to work and on site.”
A spokesman for M&S confirmed that the move will involve the town’s current South Street store relocating to Charles Street.
He added: “We have agreed to take a 22,000 square foot unit within the proposed Charles Street development.”
District councillor Alistair Chisholm, who campaigned against the West Dorset District Council offices that formed the first phase of the Charles Street scheme, questioned whether the announcement of the M&S store would necessarily herald the go ahead for the long awaited development.
He also voiced concerns that the scheme was getting further and further away from what was originally proposed for the site, with West Dorset District Council supporting the project with public money.
Coun Chisholm said: “I think a lot has changed between what was originally agreed by the vast majority of people to be an appropriate development for Dorchester and what is being proposed now.
“We are seeing more and more changes to the scheme and more and more public money being spent.
“Just how much is this development worth to a district council that is struggling to maintain essential services.”
SIMONS had to apply for renewal of its outline planning application last October after the three year time limit on the original approval expired.
The renewed application was approved last month, with West Dorset District Council again stating that detailed plans from the scheme must be submitted within three years.
Leader of West Dorset District Council Robert Gould described the announcement of M&S’s involvement in the scheme as ‘fantastic news’.
He said: “It is fantastic news that another major high street retailer has signed up as the second anchor store for the Charles Street development.”
Boost to all town's firms
CHAIRMAN of the Dorchester BID (Business Improvement District) John Fiori welcomed the news that Marks and Spencer had signed up to the second phase of the Charles Street scheme.
He said it was a boost to business in the town and further evidence that Dorchester was defying the recession.
Mr Fiori said: “The BID is pleased that a marquee name is opening up another store in phase two.
“It shows Dorchester is still bucking the trend and hopefully phase two will be completed now.”