Grand Arcade

This article was published in 1999, in Newsletter 24.

A planning application is expected any day for the Grand Arcade. This is a big redevelopment of the whole area bounded by St Andrew’s Street, Downing Street, Corn Exchange Street and Lion Yard. It will provide a new home for Robert Sayle and also many other new shops, restaurants and leisure facilities.

The very welcome rejection of the retail park planned by Sainsbury’s between Arbury and the A14 on the city’s outskirts means that the focus can swing back to shopping development in the heart of the city, where it is much more accessible by bike and public transport. The transport arrangements for the shopping centre will be critical, as the planned development does not increase the amount of public car parking in the City Centre. On the other hand, neither does it decrease car parking. Nevertheless, there is some nervousness among the developers and prospective tenants about the prospect of lots more shops without lots more parking.

While the architecture and style are going to be important to everyone, it is the opportunity, impact and role of cyclists in the plan that must interest the Campaign.

The intention is to have the new Robert Sayle store on the Downing Street-St Andrew’s Street corner, with an internal covered street pattern linking with a central hub reached from St Andrew’s Street, Corn Exchange Street and Lion Yard. It comes as no surprise that none of the enclosed area is likely to be accessible by bike. It is intended, though, that the new ways through should have more of a street feel about them than is typical of shopping malls, and should not be closed except perhaps at the dead of night.

Cycle parking is obviously a big concern for us, and what we have heard so far leads us to believe that it will be inadequate. The developers might provide for only 150 spaces, and not all of those would actually be related to the site. We think this site needs hundreds more. There seems to be an implicit assumption that if you’re on a bike, you can’t be important as a shopper. As all Campaign members know, this is completely wrong.

If ‘sustainable modes’ of transport are the key to the new development, then it does seem important to us that it should be as accessible by bike as possible. The inner ring road presents something of a barrier to this at the moment.

While the development – assuming it goes ahead – is going to have a long-term impact on travel and shopping patterns in the City, the alternative prospect of development on the northern fringe is much more alarming. An environmental viewpoint says that not reducing Lion Yard car park below its current 970 spaces is a lost opportunity, but the developers think it is daring not to extend it. And while an environmental view questions the ever increasing demands for more shopping space, Robert Sayle’s lease does expire before long, so their future needs to be decided.

We also need to consider the chaos that will be caused by the building works, which will last more than four years. There will be lots of heavy construction traffic. The car park will be halved in size over some of that time, so serious alternatives will have to be worked out. Park and Ride will have to play a big part in this, as will Queen Anne Terrace car park, but major relaxation of on-street parking has also been mooted, a prospect which frightens me enormously.

David Earl