A leading heritage and conservation group fears plans to extend the White Rose Centre could prove a threat to stores in Leeds city centre and other nearby towns.
White Rose owners Land Securities have unveiled proposals to expand the shopping centre off Dewsbury Road, between Morley and Beeston.
The proposals include extensions to Debenhams and Primark, a multi-screen cinema, three smaller single-story shops and more restaurants and cafes.
Current planning policies and guidelines support a “centres first approach” – that existing town and city centres should be the focus of office, retail and leisure development, with out-of-town schemes only to be permitted if it can be shown they will not impact on existing centres.
And Leeds Civic Trust has written to Land Securities saying it has a long-standing “centres first approach” when considering new developments.
It raises concerns that expanded Debenhams and Primark stores at White Rose could prove a long-term threat to the future of the retailers’ city centre outlets.
The trust says it could only support White Rose expansion if it can be shown that there are no alternative and more appropriate sites in existing centres and that those centres are trading to capacity. The trust will give its final opinion once the information has been provided.
The contents of the letter were reported to the council’s city plans panel during a pre-application presentation setting out the proposals.
Mr Gerald Jennings, of Land Securities, said: “Primark and Debenhams have been clear with us that this will have no adverse effect on their stores in Leeds and other centres.”
He pointed out Land Securities was developing the £350m Trinity Leeds scheme in the city centre and added: “We wouldn’t do that and invest in White Rose if we thought we would harm either of those assets.”
A planning application is to submitted next month or December.