West Leeds: Unfounded fears over centre of controversy

Owlcotes is home to huge stores for Asda and Marks & Spencer, yet their impact on Pudsey town centre has not been catastrophic.
Owlcotes is home to huge stores for Asda and Marks & Spencer, yet their impact on Pudsey town centre has not been catastrophic.
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When the Owlcotes Centre first arrived on the doorstep of Pudsey in 1991 it prompted fears that the double whammy of a giant Asda and Marks & Spencer would decimate the town centre.

Not only would the development, between the Stanningley bypass and Stanningley, lead to huge traffic bottlenecks, but competing with two of Britain’s biggest retailers would leave smaller stores battling for survival.

Leeds city councillor Mick Coulson, who represents Pudsey, said things didn’t quite turn out the way the way some anticipated.

“I can’t say that the Owlcotes centre 100 per cent didn’t affect the town centre,” he says. “But I don’t think it has done it any substantial, long-term harm.

“The traffic congestion, for example, is nothing to do with Asda or Marks & Spencer, it’s all to do with the traffic we get coming off the bypass. But with that we’ve already made attempts to alleviate some of the congestion and they seem to be working.

“As for retail, I think Pudsey is actually doing a lot better than many other parts of the UK have in the recession. Some shops close, others open, that’s just the way it goes. But the important thing is that new shops are opening to fill the spaces of those that have closed.

“In the centre of Pudsey there is a large Sainsbury’s where a Kwik Save used to be. In fact there are two Sainsbury’s in the town centre now. That can only be a good thing.

“I don’t doubt it might help town centre retail if the Owlcotes Centre wasn’t there, but what about jobs? Just think of the number of people employed down there, most of whom come from the Pudsey, Stanningley and Farsley area.

“You only need to stand in the middle of Pudsey to see how many people pass by wearing a Marks & Spencer or Asda uniform to realise how important they are to the town in terms of keeping local people in work.”

And new business are still trickling into Pudsey, one of the most recent is Mr Sandwich, the £1 sandwich shop owned and run by Syed Siadatan.

Mr Siadatan had no issues locating the franchise in Pudsey two years ago - his first outlet in Leeds. And he says he has no problems competing with the quality of M&S or the affordability of Asda.

“We have two other outlets in the city, one in Headingley, the other in Cross Gates, and Pudsey does as well as either of those,” says Mr Siadatan. “Passing trade actually doesn’t matter that much to us as about 90 per cent of our business is repeat business. It’s people coming once then returning again and again.

“But, most importantly, they’re often making a special journey to come to us, so in that way we’re more than competing with Marks & Spencer and Asda anyway.”

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