ePetition details

Reconsider the development plans for the Toys ‘R’ Us site

We the undersigned petition the council to Reconsider the development plans for the Toys ‘R’ Us site or otherwise demonstrate that a range of alternative uses have been fully explored and that the proposed plan will offer the most benefit to the city, its communities and residents.

The council has recently announced plans for a £150m redevelopment of the old Toys ‘R’ Us site in Southampton. The site will be developed in 3 phases and will include an office block, 275 flats, restaurants and shops.

The plans were announced days before the council approved plans to borrow £27m for the first phase of the development with no public consultation and despite concerns being raised online and by residents contacting the council directly.

While we recognise the need for the site to be developed, we believe that the announced plans are short sighted and miss a once in a lifetime opportunity for a development that is not just more of the same.

Main points of concern for this development include but are not limited to:
• A Surplus of empty office space currently in Southampton indicating a lack of potential tenants for the office space planned
• The retail and restaurant units will displace jobs from elsewhere in the city rather than generate new jobs
• The residential space will not meet the need for affordable family housing
• The residential space will primarily be used by renters commuting to London further moving the City’s economy towards lower skill and part time employment
• The impact the development could have on pedestrian thoroughfare, particularly for wheelchair users and cyclists
• That the plans are very similar to already announced plans for the development of Nelson Gate

These plans also miss an opportunity for a development which would maximise the benefit of this unique location that lies between the train station and coach station. The opportunity for a development with such strong transport connections to bring visitors into the city while also providing use to residents will not happen again. Although this petition does not aim to dictate what should be developed, we would like to know that the following options have been fully explored.
• Expanding the current coach station
• Providing improved pedestrian thoroughfare for entrance to the city from the two transport hubs, particularly for wheelchair users and cyclists
• That the development be made in conjunction with improving the footbridge over the train lines, particularly for wheelchair users and cyclists
• Development of a multi-use space including all or some of the following:
• Development of a conference centre to hold large scale events to bring more visitors to the city – boosting the business of existing retail and restaurants in the city while also raising the profile of the city
• Development of a conference centre to hold smaller scale events for local business and public sector groups to provide professional development and networking opportunities
• Development of adult education and retraining space to support residents adjust to the rise in more modern job types and the uptake in use of artificial intelligence throughout all industries
• Development of community access space to support current community groups and encourage new groups to form improving offerings to city residents
• The development of space to support cultural events such as conventions and eSports competitions
• That the development generates jobs for the city by providing space for businesses not already in abundance in the city
• Development of entertainment complex / ice rink / indoor ski slope / swimming complex – to bring in more visitors to the city centre and give residents access to more activity space

This ePetition ran from 19/09/2019 to 14/11/2019 and has now finished.

249 people signed this ePetition.

Council response

The Council has given full consideration to this E-petition and can now respond on the principal matters it raises.

It is firstly worthwhile pointing out that the Council does not control the former Toys R Us site and the emerging plans which have been the subject of recent media coverage are being promoted by developers with a majority interest in the scheme.

Any redevelopment will therefore have to meet their commercial viability criteria in order to progress, failing which there is a significant risk of the site remaining vacant or the existing building being split up for uses which fail to deliver the desired regeneration benefits for Southampton.

In terms of the main points raised:

Why build new offices when so much existing space is empty?
• Much of the existing office supply in Southampton is old or poorly located and does not meet occupier demand for higher quality ‘Grade A’ space, enabled for technology and on-site amenities.
• Southampton has lost businesses to out of City sites, thereby losing highly skilled jobs and opportunities for residents. We need to attract businesses back into the city
• A number of older buildings are also being converted for alternative uses, so the amount of office space has reduced to a level which is beginning to impact on Southampton’s competitiveness.
• The proposed new office building will be designed to meet current user requirements for top quality space and encourage businesses to locate and remain in the heart of the city.

Will proposed retail and restaurant outlets displace jobs elsewhere?
• This has been considered and we believe any impact on existing retail and leisure businesses will be minimal.
• The additional business occupation will increase viability of retail and hospitality, through having more people living and working in the City to support trade
• These proposals will support Southampton’s economic growth and bringing high quality jobs back into the city centre will create spin-off benefits in sectors such as catering and retail.
• Ground floor commercial uses are also important to create active street frontages and the final mix will be determined as the scheme evolves through pre-planning.

How do these proposals meet the need for affordable housing?
• Identified need in the city centre is for a mix of housing types and tenures.
• Affordable housing provision will also be addressed through the planning process.

Will the new homes be occupied by commuters who work elsewhere?
• This concern is not borne out by the evidence and it is clear that many people want to live and work in the city centre.
• While some occupiers may not also work in Southampton, this mixed-use scheme will promote sustainable communities and support the city’s local economy.
• The Council is investing in the office development in order to increase jobs in City Centre and avoid the residential being predominantly for commuters

Adverse impact on the pedestrian thoroughfare?
• At present the route from Central rail station towards West Quay is a poorly lit path through the store’s service yard and car park.
• The proposed scheme includes the first section of a new ‘promenade’ towards the water-front and will provide greatly enhanced public realm which is highly accessible to all users.

Aren’t these plans similar to Nelson Gate?
• There are some similarities between the two schemes (this is a mixed urban area) but probably more differences.
• For example, the Nelson Gate plans centre around bringing vacant buildings back into viable use through conversion of outmoded office accommodation for housing.
• The Toys R Us scheme is more significant in acting as a catalyst for regeneration South of the rail station and promoting an exciting new business hub.

Other matters touched on in the petition, such as the coach station and footbridge over the rail lines, are outside the developer’s control but we can confirm they are being actively worked on by the Co