Whilst not having any great interest in this myself — and regular readers may find what follows rather dull too — I am aware that quite a few readers land upon one of my earlier posts having done a search for ‘When does M & S open at the Orbital Centre?’ or something similar. Now, I don’t know the answer to that, and it’s almost a year since Marks and Spencer announced plans for a store at the Orbital Shopping Centre. Not a lot seems to have happened since then, and Marks & Spencer’s store finder still rather oddly shows unit C1B of the Orbital Shopping Park as being in Swindon town centre. It also declares — as it has done all year — that the shop will be closed for the next seven weeks. However, M&S have just submitted a planning application to allow them to add their signage to the building, so perhaps M&S at the Orbital Centre might be open early in 2009.
Mr Tomlinson has clearly been stocking up on sand recently, enough to thoroughly bury his head. His response to the announcement that Marks & Spencer will open a branch at the Orbital Centre in north Swindon is shockingly naïve.
This is absolutely fantastic news for my residents. There have been rumours of this coming forward for quite some time. And during that period residents have been asking me to support it – which I am delighted to do. It is an excellent addition to the Orbital Shopping Park and I’m sure it will prove very popular. But the Orbital centre will never replace Swindon town centre. It will work alongside the town centre to improve Swindon’s offer to shoppers.
Decades of experience of ‘out-of-town’ shopping centres in towns across the country demonstrate that the reality is highly likely to be the opposite. You don’t need to be a genius to realise that anyone from North Swindon who is currently a customer at the town centre branch of M&S is unlikely to be one once the new branch opens. It’s hardly likely to lead to an increase in business at their Outlet Centre branch either. With people like Mr Tomlinson at the council leading the town centre redevelopment, the future for Swindon town centre looks bleak.