White Lion gets the green light

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Central Beds Council has approved a planning application to refurbish Dunstable’s White Lion Retail Park.

The council says it will bring more than £4.32million of investment into the area, transform the town’s retail market and create more than 110 jobs.

After working with park owners Pradera, an agreement has been reached which will see the long-unoccupied former Staples and Comet stores subdivided to allow new retailers to move in, including M&S Simply Food and Next.

Unit One will be divided up to provide three new units with additional mezzanine floorspace, one of which will be for Next. The fashion retailer, which was poised to leave the town altogether, will now increase its floorspace by five times, transfer its existing 18-strong workforce from the Quadrant Shopping Centre store and offer 29 additional positions.

M&S Simply Food will move into a refurbished Unit Five, providing 50 jobs, while Brantano and Sports Direct are negotiating to open new stores in the retail park, which would provide 15 and 16 new roles respectively.

Restrictions will remain on nine of the 13 units, giving the council strong controls on the retail park to prevent any changes taking place, which could adversely impact on Dunstable town centre.

Central Beds Council’s executive member for regeneration, Cllr Nigel Young, said: “This is a fantastic boost for Dunstable. A refurbished White Lion Retail Park will further enhance the reputation of the town as a great place for shopping, leisure and culture.

“Over the last two years a wide range of regeneration projects and developments has been breathing new life into this traditional market town, improving infrastructure, leisure and social facilities across the board.

“BBC Three Counties Radio is due to relocate from Luton to Grove Park, a stone’s throw from where a new, state-of-the-art skate park will open on March 21. A £15million refurbishment will improve the Central Bedfordshire College campus, while the Priory View extra care facility in Church Street will open its doors in the autumn, providing much- needed housing for our older residents.

“This planning approval for the White Lion Retail Park represents a continuation of these works and will bring with it visitors, new businesses, money and jobs, inspiring an increasingly optimistic economic outlook that is helping to restore confidence in Dunstable as a whole.

“Key to this will be transport links, such as the Luton-Dunstable Busway, that will act as an artery between the heart of the town, its high street and the White Lion Retail Park, so the varied retail offerings can complement each other while enhancing and increasing consumer choice and competition.

“We’ve been very mindful of meeting the contemporary needs of shoppers and retailers alike so it is very pleasing when companies like M&S and Next share our vision of a more prosperous Dunstable – a town which is rediscovering its former glory.”

Barrie Whight, Pradera director, said: “We expect the new offering at the park to become increasingly popular with retailers.”