MULTI-million pound plans to refurbish and upgrade John Lewis have been agreed.
The scheme would see a modernisation of the store in a 20,000 sq ft development.
The plans were agreed at a Milton Keynes Council planning meeting last Thursday with the decision welcomed by director of thecentre:mk Robert Hall and managing director of John Lewis, Paul Hunt.
Mr Hunt said: “We’re absolutely thrilled our proposals for the refurbishment have been agreed by Milton Keynes Council. Our multi million pound investment in our department store will benefit local shoppers and will contribute significantly to the vitality and appeal of Milton Keynes and the centre:mk.
“This will also help to ensure the town retains its rightful role as the regional shopping destination of choice.”
Construction is set to start in early spring and will last around seven months. It will be carried out in a number of phases so the store can stay open with as little disruption to the public as possible.
However, the news was not welcomed by everyone with detractors suggesting the new plans may harm rather than help Middleton Hall.
Ken Baker, of Central Milton Keynes Town Council, was one of the building’s original architects. He said: “Quite apart from the issue of damaging Middleton Hall, this was an important test case. It was the first time that English Heritage had recommended refusal for a planning application since the building was listed, yet despite compelling arguments, MK Council rejected their advice.”
Linda Inoki, of protest group Xplain, says: “The building is full of memory and meaning for the people of Milton Keynes.
“And it is the feeling of light and space that makes the centre different and still brings people from all over the region. But it seems that the shopkeepers of Britain just can’t stand to see open spaces unless they are commercialised with restaurants and shops.”
Mr Hall argued the development would bring more custom to the centre
He said: “The refurbishment comes as part of thecentre:mk’s continued commitment to the ongoing establishment of the centre as the region’s premier shopping destination.
“As a listed building, it is imperative we work to maintain the important features of the listing while still facilitating the creation of a new and modern retail space, and there is no doubt a refurbished and enhanced John Lewis department store will help us do this.”