One of the first tests for the Localism Bill?

Today three messages were received about the large casino premises licence for a casino on land at the National Exhibition Centre, granted by Solihull Council’s Licensing Committee to Genting UK, part of a Malaysian conglomerate, which Property Week says is using its massive cash reserves to expand into Europe and America. 

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“An attempt to do a Merry Hill/Dudley to Solihull?”  

Jon says that only 7% of the proposed development would be casino: “More Star City scale than Las Vegas”.

The council website describes the casino as being ‘part of an anticipated commercial development’. 

Genting UK have stated that the casino will be part of a large ‘destination complex’, consisting of a 4/5 star hotel, a spa, multi-screen cinema, conference and banqueting centre, designer shopping outlets, food and beverage outlets and car parking for 300 vehicles. 

Attracting trade away from the town centre? 

“Most would be shops and other developments which are now meant to be town centre preserve…leisure, cinemas, designer restaurants, attractive bars etc. The shops are for Bicester Village style end of line 30-50% off discounted goods: clothes, electrical etc . 

“This is not attracting in conference-goers from China but shoppers from Solihull”. 

Kirsty thinks differently and has spoken to those ‘in the know’: 

“The development will include retail and entertainment, however these will be considerably upmarket premier brands and restaurants not found in Solihull or the surrounding areas.  Visitors to this complex are likely to do just that, visit the complex and not travel elsewhere.  The business view is that this will generate income and more importantly many employment opportunities that otherwise would not be attracted to the area.” 

Local traders’ interests affected by out of town shopping centres? 

Walsall Council’s support for out of town shopping centres is said to have ruined the town centre shopping – the market in particular – and all the surrounding markets such as Brownhills. A total of 94 shops and businesses are standing empty in Walsall town centre, new figures in the Express & Star revealed today.

Out of town Mark says: 

“Interesting times…Solihull is still a successful town centre and the shopkeepers might erupt in protest if they woke up to the potential Merry Hill on their doorstep. 

“As to Solihull shops. I know that now it has Touchwood – and more importantly John Lewis – people come from far and wide – such as Rugby, Coventry and Leamington Spa. So if they have come that far they will certainly consider the NEC as equally close and convenient, so yes it could hit Solihull.” 

Kirsty is in touch with Solihull retailers and says that there has been wide consultation with regard to these plans: “Managers of both Mell Square and Touchwood have been consulted.  I understand that they are not concerned about loss of trade within Solihull as a result of this development.” 

Rob – a concerned citizen and parent of teenagers – makes two points: 

“If it becomes a shopping centre kids will be able to go there on their termly school bus pass”. 

He also asks: “Where is the public consultation?”  

On the official website we read that: “This Government trusts people to take charge of their lives and we will push power downwards and outwards to the lowest possible level, including individuals, neighbourhoods, professionals and communities as well as local councils and other local institutions.” 

Will this happen? Time will tell.

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