A CRUCIAL decision over a £150 million out-of-town Worcester shopping plaza is facing fresh delay - leading to claims investors are being "put off" the city due to the uncertainty.

A retail expert claims shops are actively overlooking the city because of the Worcester Woods saga - saying stores are reluctant to invest until they know the outcome.

Land Securities, Britain's biggest developer, asked Worcester City Council for permission to build a massive retail park on fields off Newtown Road 15 months ago.

But the planning committee has yet to make a decision - and now no vote will take place until after May's elections, with a date still yet to be set.

Dan Bramwell, based in Bath, is a retail expert who advises shops on investment opportunities.

He said the long wait over Worcester Woods, which will be anchored by John Lewis if it gets the nod, is "having a very negative impact" on the rest of the city.

He said: "This delay is further sterilising investment in Worcester and having a very negative impact on the city as a whole.

"No major operator will want to throw money into the city when there is so much uncertainty as to whether the city centre or Worcester Woods will be the main retail focus.

"Ever since the idea came forward there's been a lot of uncertainty from potential investors into Worcester - they are saying 'we're going to hold back on this'.

"The problem with Worcester Woods is that it's being seen as a destination site - nobody wants to make a move on investing elsewhere in the city until they know the outcome.

"They are not keen until they know what is going on, that's become a real issue."

Adrian Field, from Worcester's Business Improvement District (BID), which represents city centre businesses said: "Footfall is down, it's been a tough few months but that said, many businesses still say they are doing ok.

"Overall it's quite tough, but it is nationally too."

Towards the end of last year there were some suggestions a decision could be made in February or March, but those planning committee dates came and went.

Bosses at the authority say it is still bogged down in technical complexities.

The complex, which would create 551 jobs, is for 13 shopping units spread across 394,000 square foot, one third of the entire city centre retail floor space.

A 30,000 sq ft Marks &Spencer, 60,000 sq ft Sainsbury’s with an eight-pump petrol station, £7 million 40,000 sq ft John Lewis at Home store and a Next Home and Garden outlet are all signed up so far.

Land Securities has urged Worcester to improve its shopping to avoid "falling behind" rival destinations like Cheltenham and Birmingham, but the planning application is hotly contested by city traders.

Yesterday, a city council spokesman said: "No date had been set for taking it to the planning committee yet."