Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Out Of Town Shopping Centres

Since the 1980s, much of the retail development in the UK has been in the form of out-of-town developments as lower land-values, the availability of land for expansion, a nearby labour force and good access routes on the rural-urban fringe of settlements has encouraged out-of-town centres to develop. These out-of-town centres, contain large, well-known stores and often have attractions for all the family, including leisure facilities, catering outlets etc. The growth of these development has however led to a number of common problems which include:

  • - traffic congestion in the vicinity of the new developments
  • - larger stores are often attracted away from nearby town and city centres to these new centres
  • - more empty shops in town and city centres (often attract vandalism)
  • - fewer people visiting the city centres - resulting in the creation of a 'dead heart', particularly in smaller market towns and economic decline
City centres have been fighting back against out-of-town developments through 'shop local' campaigns and in 1998, there were calls by the government to stop out-of-town developments, however there have more recently been proposals for relaxing the resulting planning laws which would make it easier for superstores to build out-of-town developments. Other attempts to reduce town centre decline include calls to abolish free car-parking in out-of-town developments to encourage shoppers back to the town centre.


Meadowhall shopping centre is a large out-of-town shopping centre that has been developed on the outskirts of Sheffield. It was built in the late 1980s as a response to the lack of shopping provision in the area. It was constructed on a brownfield site (56 hectare site of a former steelworks). Access to the shopping centre is excellent and it is close to several large urban areas with 9 million people living within an hours drive of the centre (see map opposite).

Why this location?
  • plenty of space for expansion and for providing large free car parks
  • rates and rents are lower than in the city centre (shops can be bigger) - i.e. cheaper land on edge of Sheffield
  • near to suburban housing (provides a labour force)
  • near a number of motorway intersections (nearbly M1/A roads) - great accessibility and access to large sphere of influence
  • old brownfield site (was a steelworks) with plenty of room for expansion if required

The main characteristics of the shopping centre:
  • bright and modern with many different faciliites, including a leisure centre, cinema, creche and other attractions for children;
  • a large variety of shops;
  • large, free car parts (12,000 spaces!)
  • provides under-cover shopping (not restricted by weather and shoppers, shop in the comfort of an air-conditioned complex)
  • supertram link with the city centre;
  • two new railways stations built
(photo (c) Ian Britton -

The Impact of Meadowhall on Sheffield?
The building of Meadowhall has had an impact on Sheffield City Centre, as many shops have moved out and takings have been down for some shops by as much as 25%. This good article on Geography Pages summarises the issues for the centre.

EXAMPLE 2: BLUEWATER - nr Dartford (Kent)

Bluewater, known as Europe's largest retail and leisure complex, opened in 1999, it was built on a brownfield site, in a disussed chalk quarry and has excellent access, being just outside the M25 in the area of Dartford. The following powerpoint gives more detail about the location and features of the out-of-town shopping centre as well as giving some consideration to the criticisms the centre has come under

Other examples of out-of-town shopping centres include:
Lakeside - East of London
Brent Cross - NW London
Metro Centre - Gateshead
Merry Hill - Dudley (Birmingham)

Follow up links:
Meadowhall Virtual Visit (by Holgate School - good overview)
Superstores 'killing' market town shops (BBC article)
Parking tax on out of town shoppers to save the high street (Times Article)
How has Sheffield City Centre changed since the development of Meadowhall (Geography Pages)
Proposals give supermarkets an easy ride to out of town centres (Time Article)
Meadowhall Website
Bluewater Website

Key Term Check:
Out-of-town Shopping Centres - large retail developments found in out-of-town locations close to major transport links.


Mysterio said...

can you do one about brent cross as well

Mr Chambers said...

Thank you for your comment - there is some information you might find useful about Brent Cross here