Getting intu a debate over ‘desperate’ tactic

The intu scheme and, inset, general manager Shelley Peppard
The intu scheme and, inset, general manager Shelley Peppard

Shopping centre bosses have ‘posed’ as members of the public to support their own controversial multi-million pound development in the city.

intu general manager Shelley Peppard and six of her colleagues from across the country have come under fire for the stunt, which protestors claim is “deceitful” and “desperate”.

The letters of support to build a new retail and leisure complex failed to state they were intu employees – despite some being managers of centres as far away as Manchester.

Even staff from the centre’s PR company disguised themselves as ordinary shoppers to comment.

But according to planning law, there are no rules to prevent anyone making representations on applications.

Planning chairman, Councillor Andrew Geary, will vote on the plans next month. He said: “In a moral sense I can see how people would object, but in planning terms there are no laws to stop it.

“The planning committee has no choice but to take the comments into account.

“It’s not great, but it’s what we have to work with.”

The controversy comes just a week after intu boss Ms Peppard asked shoppers to get behind the centre’s ambitious plans to create a new dining area, additional shops, and a five-screen boutique cinema.

The retail expert, who joined intu two months ago, is said to be “openly proud” that intu staff have shown support for the proposals.

But those opposing the plans said it was a clear attempt to “flog a dead horse”.

An intu spokesman said: “It’s only natural that those closely involved in the development would want to officially voice support for a project they are involved in.

“As well as working for intu, many live or work in MK and have their own personal view and the changes it brings.”