Crewe regeneration - royal arcade

Town planners insist Crewe’s new-look town centre can work alongside the bustling Grand Junction retail park, writes Stephen Topping.

Cheshire East Council wants to transform Royal Arcade in Crewe town centre – with the authority hoping that a new cinema, bowling alley and shops can be built in 2023.

But the development will have to compete with Grand Junction for footfall – an issue regarded as a key factor in driving up the number of vacant shops in the town centre.

Cllr Mike Hunter, Labour, told a scrutiny meeting on Monday: “This has happened in Northwich, it’s happened in Crewe, it’s happened in all places where we have small out-of-town retail units – like Grand Junction, which is super successful.

“[Retailers] move to it because the rates are cheaper, the parking is easier, it’s a modern unit where they know they are going to get footfall. How do we square that with Royal Arcade?

“It seems to me that we have to offer some sort of unique experience for people to come back into Crewe, because Crewe is a bit of a ghost town at the minute.

“That has got to be sold along with accessibility – and that doesn’t just mean buses, that means walking, cycling, every mode of transport so we can get people into that town centre.”

Members of CEC’s environment and regeneration overview and scrutiny committee were told that Crewe has the highest percentage of vacant shops out of all town centres across the borough.

Cllr Hunter also urged the authority to learn the lessons from Barons Quay in Northwich town centre, which has only attracted one retailer from the out-of-town Northwich Retail Park in Sports Direct.

The development, which cost Cheshire West and Chester Council £80 million, opened in 2016 but only now has tenants lined up to be 80 per cent full in the coming months.

“There is no point in us making a white elephant,” Cllr Hunter added.

“You only have to go to Northwich to look at Barons Quay to see the difficulties in getting units back from out-of-town centres, into the town centre.”

Peter Skates, director of growth and enterprise, admitted that the location of Grand Junction is ‘one of the unique problems’ for Royal Arcade – but insisted the two sites could work in harmony.

He said: “The fact that [Grand Junction] is a success also means that Crewe is a destination for shopping – it is attractive, it has the demographics around it, retailers want to be in Crewe.

“We want to look at links between how you go from Grand Junction to the town centre and back again. We need to try and embrace it, rather than turn our backs on Grand Junction.

“Barons Quay had a lot of challenges and the council took a lot of risk and liability on that. That just shows you, when it comes to the development agreement, why it has taken such a long time.”


  1. The elephant in the room here is surely parking charges, it is free at the Crewe retail park, it is free at Northwich Barons quay (for now), but will it be free in the new Crewe “towncentre”, I doubt it because CEC need all the money they can get. They are killing town centres though, people shop where they can park freely, unless is somewhere v special like nantwich.

  2. What really needs to happen is to get on with it and actually do something. Crewe town centre has been dead for too many years now. We are told that demolition will start later this year, but as far as I am aware there hasn’t even been a planning application submitted yet for the new development. I suspect that we won’t see anything. Near a completed development for some years yet…could be too late then to save Crewe. Now that HS2 is committed let’s get on with it Cheshire East.

  3. Before I read the whole article, I was recalling the “white elephant” of Northwich. The interest charges on the building and development costs are “eye-watering” and, perhaps, the councillors need to ” bite the bullet” and accept that Crewe shoppers have voted with their feet. An ecologically-friendly development might be to revert to housing in the town centre.

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