More developments at Lakeside as new town square goes before planners

PLANs are on the stocks for another major development at Thurrock’s biggest shopping centre, intu Lakeside.

The centre has recently seen the opening of a new multi-million pound lesisure complex and plans have been unveiled to devlop housing on part of the state.

Now the creation of a new bus station, a multi-storey car park and a town square are up for consideration by borough planners.

The ambitious plans for intu Lakeside include demolishing part of the Debenhams department store to make way for an outside shopping area, as well as the creation a new ‘town square’.

The details have been revealed in a planning application submitted to Thurrock Council and while changes are possible following a review by the council’s planning officers, intu has said it is prepared to invest up to £168million into the improvements.

Along with the new street-style shopping area on the north side, the existing bus station could also be knocked down and replaced with a new three-storey department store. The existing Debenhams store would then be converted to accommodate several new shops.

It is not clear what the future would be for Debenhams in Lakeside, however an intu spokesperson said: “We are in the process of renewing our planning consent, once that consent is in place we can review where we can go from there.”

Planning documents state that additional stores and changes to the shopping centre’s layout means a new multi-storey car park will also need to be built to the north of the new department store.

Close to the car park will also be the new town square. This public space will be a small area free of cars that can be used for art installations and seating areas.

To make up for the loss of the bus station, a new and modern replacement will be built at the opposite side of the shopping centre, close to the footbridge that connects to Chafford Hundred Station.

In the plans, it says that repositioning the facility to a more central location that is better connected to the railway station is “an obvious benefit not just for intu Lakeside but for the Lakeside Basin as a whole”.

The bus station will also allow intu to create a “sophisticated and welcoming concourse” entrance that will be seen by shoppers arriving on the bus.

If the proposals are given the go-ahead by the council, intu estimates that it will lead to the creation of up to 1,553 temporary construction jobs during the three-year construction period.

Once completed, there will be up to 2,930 additional jobs at the centre.

The councillors who represent the West Thurrock and South Stifford ward have welcomed intu’s plans but have said they want to be sure the needs of residents are considered.

Cllr Victoria Holloway, said: “It is really important that this considers the residents of Thurrock and their needs, as well as the existing workforce. As long as that is considered I can’t see a problem with it.

“Looking at the infrastructure surrounding the shopping centre would be part of the planning process and there will always be busy periods such as during school holidays and Christmas but it is something I will keep a close eye on to ensure it does not result in disruption.”

She added that job growth is welcomed and while Thurrock is a hub for retail and logistics, the jobs should “offer development and career progression.”

Cllr Oliver Gerrish said: “We need to make sure people can still move around as there is always the danger of it becoming very congested, particularly when there is a problem on the QE2 bridge, so the impact on local traffic is something that needs to be assessed and understood.

“In terms of jobs, we always want to make sure there are good and high-quality jobs in Thurrock and a variety of jobs – not just retail and logistics.

“The plans for Purfleet show what we can do by bringing the arts to the region. Clearly, I welcome that Thurrock people will have access to jobs but we need to make sure that it is the right kind of jobs and the right industries.”