Skelmersdale regeneration faces legal challenge

A proposed development in Skelmersdale which promised 50,000 sq ft each of retail space and leisure facilities and to create as many as 500 jobs will be challenged in court by a rival developer.

Skelmersdale_Cam07_updatedLondon & Cambridge Properties says the proposals threaten the viability of the Concourse Shopping Centre in Skelmersdale.

LCP is forging ahead with its own plans for a £4m cinema and restaurant scheme at the centre, and says it has no option but to seek legal redress to safeguard both the town centre and the mall’s future.

LCP sent a letter to West Lancashire Borough Council on June 29, which sets out several points of law that challenges the granting of planning consent to St Modwen for a competing scheme in the town centre.

The letter – a pre-action protocol – identifies the specific legal grounds on which it disputes the planning consent and seeks to establish if the council can address them to avoid litigation.

If the local authority does not do that, LCP will have no option but to apply to the courts for judicial review.

Jo Salmon, LCP’s retail portfolio manager, said they were left with no option but to take this action because legal counsel believes the consent for the St Modwen scheme is unlawful, unenforceable and ineffective.

“We are doing this because we have to preserve the future of the Concourse Shopping Centre and Skelmersdale town centre,” said Jo, who is leading the delivery of the £4m project on behalf of joint venture partners London & Cambridge Properties and Threadneedle Investments.

“We are challenging the scheme on a number of legal and technical points and it is our hope that the council can rectify these issues but if that is not possible, then we have no choice but to apply to the courts for judicial review.”

She said the council and its retained retail consultants (PBA) had already acknowledged the potential harm that would be caused to the Concourse Centre if the St Modwen proposals went ahead. This is because St Modwen is promoting a scheme that includes Aldi, Home Bargains and Poundland, which occupy 20 per cent of Concourse’s existing retail space.

“The council’s consultants have pointed out that this would represent a severe blow to the centre particularly given the recent closures, which have resulted in further vacant units,” added Jo.

Under LCP’s proposals, a 20,000 sq ft multi-screen Light cinema, along with two food outlets, would be located on the second floor of the shopping centre, while four existing units would be converted on the first floor to accommodate restaurants. This is the first phase of the centre’s transformation.

"The shopping centre, which houses more than 70 shops including well-known high street names and numerous independent businesses, will also undergo significant improvements and will bring to the town the leisure so desperately needed while improving the retail offer in the centre," Jo added.

“In addition to bringing a quality cinema and restaurants to Skelmersdale, our scheme will ensure all our existing businesses will be strengthened, we will be able to entice new retailers to the town, it will breathe new life into the Concourse,” she continued.

“If the competing scheme was to go ahead, there will no new retailers coming to the town, just relocation of our existing stores, which will lead to fewer shoppers in the centre, further weakening of the town’s core, more vacant units and less choice for customers. “This would be detrimental to the town, the businesses, the employees and our shoppers. This cannot be allowed to happen.”