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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 October 2006, 14:34 GMT 15:34 UK
Controversy over 200m shops plan
Drake Circus
Drake Circus is expected to attract 15m visitors a year
A controversial 200m shopping complex being opened in Plymouth aims to transform the city and turn it into the region's main retail destination.

The Drake Circus mall is expected to attract 15m visitors a year to new big-name stores including H&M and Zara.

But the exterior of the building, a combination of eye-catching cladding, has been criticised by architects.

Despite what one expert called an "inexcusable" design, it attracted 60,000 visitors on its opening morning.

'Out of date'

The description of "inexcusable" by Plymouth University's professor of architecture, Jeremy Gould, was backed up by renowned architect David Mackay, who came up with a blueprint for the future of the city.

Speaking ahead of the opening, Mr Mackay, said the design for Drake Circus was already "10 years out of date".

But centre General Manager Mike Jones said the arguments had not dissuaded visitors.

He said: "We've had so many positive comments about how light and airy the inside is, the marble floors; people have just been mesmerised by it."

Drake Circus opening crowd
The mall was officially opened on Thursday morning
"We expect an average of about 40,000 people a day, so to open to 60,000 is brilliant."

The chairman of the Devon and Cornwall Business Council, Tim Jones, said it would be down to the public to make it a success, irrespective of what the design concerns were.

He said: "Most of the arguments will be lost on the general public and it is the general public that we need to come shopping here, spend their money and make sure it is successful."

The 6.5-acre site which has 654,000 sq-ft of floor space will employ about 2,000 people.

Drake Circus is the first major building block of Mr Mackay's Vision for Plymouth blueprint.

Retail tables

His vision also includes a revamp of the remaining shopping centre, breaking up the 1950s-built shops into smaller lanes so that independent shops can thrive, and introducing more bars, cafes and living accommodation to create a vibrant nightlife.

The new Drake Circus got off to a shaky start when department store Alders, which was initially signed up as the main anchor, said it would not be joining the P&O development.

But it is hoped that big high street names such as H&M, Next, Virgin, Zara, Primark, Office, and the biggest Marks and Spencer in the region will help drag Plymouth up in the national retail tables.

Plymouth City Council said it thought the centre would be enthusiastically greeted.


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