I am delighted by the decision to block the expansion of Cribbs Causeway announced earlier this week by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.
This is something I’ve challenged the government about several times, urging two different Secretaries of State for Communities and Local Government to ‘call in’ and determine the application themselves, and stressing my concerns that an extension to Cribbs would damage Bristol city centre. I am pleased that the government and planning inspectorate now share that view and have decided not to allow the expansion to go ahead.
The proposed expansion of Cribbs would have had a huge impact on retailers in Bristol. As I pointed out when I first wrote to the then-Secretary of State back at the very end of 2015, the opening of the Mall at Cribbs Causeway in 1998 had significant consequences for Bristol city centre, as the city slipped to 27th in the national retail rankings. Whilst the city centre has since rallied, an expansion of a major out-of-town retail complex could only threaten this impressive recovery.
Indeed, South Gloucestershire Council estimated that the cumulative impact on Bristol City Centre would have equated to a loss in turnover of £152 million.
This would have put many Bristolians’ jobs at risk as a result and their abilities to get to work easily and affordably.
Just over one in three people working in Bristol City Centre live within two miles of their place of work – many from more disadvantaged areas of the city. This makes getting to work easy by foot, cycle or public transport, which, given our air pollution problems, we need to increase, not put at threat.
It was unacceptable to me that the proposals effectively placed these jobs and businesses under threat or pushed people to jobs out of the city centre, requiring them to use more car journeys or long commutes by public transport.
National policy rightly seeks to protect town and city centres from adverse effects caused by out-of-town developments. And as I pointed out, Cribbs’ proposed expansion would significantly harm my constituency; would have a negative impact on existing and future investment in Bristol City Centre; and would place employment and prosperity at risk.
I am glad that the government agreed with my concerns, and I look forward to seeing Bristol City Centre continue to flourish.