AN independent investigation will take place into the impact a £150 million retail park could have on Worcester city centre - to see if traders’ fears are correct.

Worcester City Council is planning to get external consultants to review the impact a 240,000 square foot shopping plaza off Newtown Road, led by John Lewis, could have on the High Street.

Under the move, the council will ask leading experts to do the work and then bill developer Land Securities, which is behind the grand proposal.

It follows months of concern the development, which is earmarked on acres of fields known as Worcester Woods, could damage city centre retailers.

David Blake, who is in charge of economic development at the city council, said: “The developer will pay for it, and it will be done by an external consultancy.

“It’s about making sure out-of-town retail doesn’t damage the city centre.”

The news has been welcomed by Worcester’s Business Improvement District (BID), which represents city retailers and says they will be “informed at every stage”.

Adrian Field, from Worcester BID, said: “The proposal would change the retail landscape and shopping patterns for Worcester and surrounding towns forever, and businesses in the BID area are keen to assess the impact it might have on them.”

The move is standard practise within local authorities for developments of this size, and allowed under planning law.

Similar to the way studies on congestion are done, it will examine the city centre’s resilience to new competition.

Land Securities is looking to get the planning application submitted in December.

Representatives from the company held talks with some traders and councillors last week, and confirmed it was edging ever closer to getting it finalised.

It will include a £7 million John Lewis ‘at home’ store, employing 100 people under a 40,000 sq ft outlet split over two floors.

Next is also looking to open up a store on the site, as well as Sainsbury’s, which wants a 60,000 sq ft supermarket and petrol station, creating 300 jobs.

Marks & Spencer is another confirmed retailer, after it revealed plans for a 30,000 sq ft outlet on the park back in September, in what would be its second Worcester outlet.

Land Securities says the park will employ 1,000 people if the city council accepts the planning application, and insists the plaza will attract new shoppers in from across the region who do not currently visit Worcester.

A spokesman said: “Anyone who wants more information on the plans can still visit the project website, which will remain active throughout the planning process.”