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Bluewater general manager Robert Goodman says West Village expansion is part of 'long term plans'

By Jess Sharp

Expanding part of Bluewater remains part of the shopping centre's "long-term plans" according to its general manager - but no date has been set for work to get underway.

Bluewater was given the go-ahead to expand its West Village area in April 2017 as part of a series of alterations it said would create 2,300 jobs.

Yet as the shopping centre marks its 20th anniversary this weekend, no work has been carried out on the area known as the town square, close to Pizza Express.

Bluewater has been open for 20 years
Bluewater has been open for 20 years

Instead, the centre has focused on high-profile new shop openings, such as the launch of Primark this week, according to general manager Robert Goodman.

Mr Goodman said: “A part of our expansion was actually Primark so over the last few months we have been building a new unit and we are really excited about Primark opening.

"It has been one of the most requested brands so we are really happy that we have managed to work with Primark to make this happen.

“We are still looking at the expansion of the West Village and that is still part of our longer term plans."

The plans to expand the West Village at Bluewater, which were approved in April 2017
The plans to expand the West Village at Bluewater, which were approved in April 2017

One of the conditions of approving Bluewater's expansion plans was a promise to make payments to town centres that could lose customers due to its growth.

Paperwork at the time said Dartford would likely receive about £612,000 for “town centre enhancements” while Gravesham and Medway councils would get about £519,000 each for Gravesend and Chatham town centres.

Yet when asked this week about the progress of these investments Mr Goodman could not comment on the plans.

He said: “Fundamentally for me we focus on our guests having a great time ensuring our retailers, working really closely with the community and our people.

“Our focus is on delivering what our guests want and the retail offers they want. That is in constant evolution and we are really pleased to see a number of existing retailers upsize, such as Beaverbrooks and JD Sports.

Robert Goodman, General Manager at Bluewater shopping centre, Dartford. Picture: Chris Davey... (7641037)
Robert Goodman, General Manager at Bluewater shopping centre, Dartford. Picture: Chris Davey... (7641037)

"We have seen new stores open like Levi Women’s and Arket and of course Primark which is what a number of people want to see at Bluewater."

Mr Goodman took the reins at Bluewater in 2012 and has overseen a huge transformation at the site, which is jointly owned by Landsec, M&G Real Estate, Hermes Real Estate, Prudential and Lend Lease Real Estate.

He said: “The success of Bluewater has been about constant evolution of our retail and listening to what our guests say.

"We gather a lot of information from our guests and that drives everything that we do.

"Primark is a great example of that - we heard a lot of feedback saying we want to see one at Bluewater and we have delivered that and that is exactly what we do.

"It's all about constant evolution, being innovative in what we are doing and, critically, focussing on guest experience.

“We are still looking at the expansion of the West Village and that is still part of our longer term plans..." - Robert Goodman, Bluewater

"One thing about Bluewater is that the team are passionate about delivering that experience to guests and that’s why we have been so successful."

The focus has certainly reaped rewards in what is a troubling time for retails.

Since the centre opened Bluewater has welcomed millions of guests from across Kent, the UK and the world, and in doing so contributes £391 million to the UK economy every year.

It supports 7,800 full time jobs, paying over £154m in wages each year.

More than 50,000 people have found work through its Learning Shop job centre since the shopping centre opened.

Mr Goodman said: “When Bluewater opened 20 years ago I think unemployment here reduced by about 50% and through our learning shop we have created more than 50,000 jobs since opening.

"We have created lots of opportunities for people across north Kent and that is the positive impact Bluewater has had on the region.

“Our big impact on the local community is job opportunities.

"We have 7,500 people working in Bluewater and looking forward it is really exciting to look at the developments at Ebbsfleet Garden City, adjacent to us, where there is going to be more than 15,000 homes built, so I am really excited about that and the future prospects for us and the rest of north Kent.”

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