TRADERS in Worcester are calling for John Lewis to invest in the city centre - urging the big retailer to "help the High Street".

The dust is today settling on the city council's decision to reject Worcester Woods, the £150 million out-of-town retail park off Newtown Road.

And now city centre traders - who waged a bitter campaign to get Worcester Woods blocked - say attention must turn to getting the popular retailer to a central location.

The council's planning committee has thrown out the retail plaza after an independent report suggested it would hammer city centre trade by 10.8 per cent.

Tim Evans, who runs Toys & Games of Worcester in Broad Street, said: "The decision over Worcester Woods was a battle we could not 'win' - we're glad it's been turned down, but we don't feel like winners.

"What we want is John Lewis in the city centre - we want John Lewis and all those other stores (which are part of the Worcester Woods scheme) to fill all the vacant units in the city centre."

Adrian Field, from Worcester's Business Improvement District (BID), which represents traders, said his emotion was one of "relief".

"I feel relieved, delighted - I was really impressed with the turnout from businesses and the quality of debate at the meeting," he said.

"But the concept of a John Lewis isn't something businesses have a problem with, it was the location.

"We'd encourage talks between John Lewis, the city council and landlords over a city centre location.

"Why don't they have another look at what the options might be?"

Worcester MP Robin Walker also said the fact the city is Britain's first to refuse a John Lewis store is not a negative thing.

"Now the decision has been made, maybe they would be prepared to look at the city centre again," he said.

"There are certainly locations they could go to."

Retail consultant Dam Bramwell, spokesman for Elgar and Blackpole retail parks, said: "It's the obvious place, the city centre, you'd be talking about significant regeneration."

The appeal comes after John Lewis released a statement earlier this week saying Worcester Woods was "the only site which is suitable" for a new store.

Investors Land Securities, which has spent more than two years drawing up its Worcester Woods scheme, is yet to comment on what it intends to do next, but has not ruled out an appeal.

The company, the UK's biggest developer, had signed up Marks & Spencer, Next Home and Garden and Sainsbury's to the scheme, with a 'John Lewis At Home' the main draw to its 13-unit plaza.

But some politicians who backed the decision to refuse it say Worcester City Council must be prepared to defend itself.

Councillor Pat Agar said: "I don't believe our retailers can take much more attrition, even five per cent less trade could kill them.

"If they wish to test this at an appeal, that's what they will have to do - it's that critical."

* FULL REPORT: Worcester says 'no' to John Lewis as £150m retail park is rejected