Orchard plans delayed again

PLANS for a £125m extension to Didcot’s Orchard shopping centre have been delayed for a second time.

In February, a report to South Oxfordshire District Council preparing for the second phase of the centre named Marks & Spencer and Debenhams as two of the top attractions.

But Hammerson has not been able to stick to its pledge of submitting a full planning application this spring.

The scheme, to double the size of the centre and transform it into one of Oxfordshire’s top shopping destinations, was announced in March last year.

At first, Hammerson said it would submit a planning application by the end of that year but then delayed the application after admitting that economic times were “tough.”

In December 2011, it pledged that plans would be lodged this spring.

Didcot Chamber of Commerce member Jeanette Howse said: “This delay is disappointing for shoppers and traders.

“You have to take into consideration that there is a tough economic climate at the moment.

“Hammerson has shown that it has faith in Didcot and I hope the planning application is submitted before the end of the year so that the scheme can continue to go forward.”

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GL Hearn spokesman Jo Sistern added: “A planning submission in the second half of 2012 should allow stores to be open in 2015 which is as we anticipated in December 2011.”

Didcot town council leader Margaret Davies said: “I think everyone would like to see the planning application submitted as soon as possible because once that happens it’s an encouraging sign that the scheme is not in limbo.”

Phase two could create hundreds of new jobs on the 10-acre site.

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