A MULTI-MILLION pound revamp of Worcester’s Cathedral Plaza has been given the go-ahead.
The scheme by Salmon Harvester Opportunity Fund, which bought Cathedral Plaza last year, was granted planning permission by Worcester City Council on Thursday and will see the 220,000 sq ft shopping centre heavily redeveloped and create a new public square in the area between the high street and the Cathedral.
The revamped shopping centre, which was built in 1968, will include space for a range of new, larger shops, seven new restaurants and an underground gym with timber and metal fins used on the external areas of the centre to improve its overall appearance.
The existing large roundabout will be removed and trees on it felled while a new, smaller roundabout will be created outside Knight Frank in College Street.
Members of the council’s planning committee threw their support behind the plans, which include the former Sainsbury’s store which has been empty since the supermarket chain pulled out in 2007, at Thursday’s meeting, although Cllr Paul Denham said it was not quite as radical as he may have liked.
“Most of us here would prefer the building to be knocked down and started again but we are where we are,” he said.
“I actually think the developer has done a very good job – it’s a great development and much better than what’s there now.
Although Cllr Denham said it was “a pity” the roundabout could not be removed entirely, Worcestershire County Council highways officer Bob Pender said this was not a realistic idea.
“There is a general view that we haven’t been brave enough to make the whole Cathedral square shared space,” he said.
“The problem is it’s an A-road heading to and from a single river crossing.
“Until perhaps we get another bridge this is an ideal compromise.”
A public consultation earlier this year showed 78 per cent of people in Worcester were supportive of the plans while 88 per cent approved of the idea to create a public square.
Although the meeting heard the Diocese of Worcester – which runs the Cathedral – had thrown its support behind the plans, members were also told the organisation had said it did not like the name ‘Cathedral Plaza’ and had suggested it be changed to ‘Cathedral Square’.
Cllr Pat Agar agreed with the idea, saying: “I think ‘Plaza’ sounds a bit dated and 1960s to be honest”.
Cllr Lynn Denham said she was pleased Salmon Harvester was bringing cash into Worcester.
“We should very much welcome the investment in the city and the opportunity to make improvements,” she said.
“It’s a significant improvement.”
Members voted unanimously to grant the application while also to ask Salmon Harvester about changing the name of the area and ensuring the materials used in the revamp were thermally efficient.
It is believed building work will get underway later this year with the first shops opening next spring, creating up to 100 new jobs.