Fears banks’ moving plans will ‘overbalance’ Great Yarmouth
15:13 02 November 2012
Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2012
Bids by two high street banks to move into a pair of prime retail sites in Great Yarmouth have been met with strong opposition amid claims the takeover plans would “totally overbalance” the town.
What the banks say
Lloyds TSB has said it will not “undermine” Great Yarmouth’s retail function by moving into Burtons.
Planning documents submitted to the council reveal the bank wants to merge its branches at Market Place and Hall Quay into one building that will provide “one large, much improved” accessible facility for all its customers.
The documents describe the Market Place branch, which serves around 15,000 customers, as “especially constrained” and say it would not be able to take on the additional 5,000 customers from Hall Quay.
But the bank says the move into Burtons will not create a dominance of non-retail units in the Market Place and shops such as Boots, Palmers and M&S will continue to take precedence in the area.
The document also adds that by moving Lloyds will add to the “vitality and viability” of the Market Place and “complement” the existing businesses.
Barclays has said it is also keen to amalgamate its two existing branches - in Hall Quay and Trafalgar Road - and create a “flagship” store on the ground floor of the M&Co premises.
Planning documents state that both Barclays existing branches are considered “off pitch” and out of the town’s “retail core” but stress the move to M&Co would not detract from retailers on the Market Place.
The document says the flagship branch would “contribute towards town centre vitality and viability by attracting a high level of pedestrian footfall to the site and immediate area, increasing activity throughout the day and evening... while supporting it’s retail function”.
It also states the introduction of a bank to the M&Co premises will not “adversely affect the balance of uses in the wider surrounding area”.
Traders in the Market Place have expressed grave concerns over the proposals from Lloyds TSB and Barclays, which want to move into Burtons and M&Co respectively, and feel the large units should be left as retail space.
Both premises have been described as “critical” to the Market Place along with the wider town centre and fears have now been raised that if the banks are allowed to move in, they will be lost “forever”.
Bruce Sturrock, chairman of Palmers department store and the town centre partnership, said: “A town centre needs some of the big names in order to attract people in in the first place, and those major retailers are looking for particularly sized sites in the prime retail area.
“Those (two units) are ideal for those sorts of people and we definitely don’t want those turned into more sterile financial institutions.
“We’ve already got a lot of banks in the town centre, that isn’t bad but they should not dominate.
“These two would totally overbalance the proportion of financial institutions against retail outlets.”
He added: “If they are turned over to a bank, because they’re solid institutions, it’s unlikely that in the foreseeable future they’ll ever be anything else. They’ll be lost.”
Several banks have already migrated from Hall Quay to the town centre or moved into the Market Place, including HSBC, Natwest and Nationwide.
Mr Sturrock said the Lloyds’ and Barclays’ takeover plans had sparked “more than a concern” among fellow traders and felt Great Yarmouth Borough Council - which will make a final decision about the proposals - needed to stand up for town centre retailers.
And he thought a strong stance was especially needed as the Market Place faced even further competition from large out of town stores at Gapton Hall.
“It’s pretty important that the planners do everything they can to protect the town centre from now on,” he added. “I think it’s a fairly critical (decision) and it really is going to test the council’s resolve.”
Jim Shrimplin, who sits on the council’s development control committee, said he could not speak for or against the plans until he had the evidence for both presented to him, but thought the applications would be “emotive”.
“Obviously traders in the town are going to have a lot of views on it,” he added. “If things like this do go ahead, all the finance businesses moving into the town centre, what’s going to happen to those wonderful buildings along the quay?”
Mr Sturrock is now urging fellow businesses to record their opposition to the plans by sending their comments to the council, before Tuesday, November 6.