Published: 02:00, 23 May 2016
Ambitious plans to transform Bluewater’s failed Glow events venue will not be rubber stamped until shopping centre bosses come up with a proposal to deal with increased traffic.
New restaurants, a leisure facility and expanded cinema would fill the vacant venue, but a planning committee at Dartford council last night expressed concern over the potential for more congestion on surrounding roads.
While all were in favour of bringing more attractions to the shopping centre following Glow’s closure last year, councillors demanded that a an acceptable traffic management plan be submitted before work goes ahead.
Cllr Ian Armitt, the committee’s vice chairman, said: “The empty space would certainly enhance Bluewater if it were put to some use. However, I have some concerns over the transport assessment put forward.
“Glow opened on a very restricted basis, whereas the application will increase cinema screens by four, add new restaurants, new leisure facilities, and presumably opportunities for new retail.”
Cllr Armitt also had doubts over the estimate provided for additional vehicles, with Bluewater only expecting the facilities to generate an additional 27 vehicles during weekday evenings and 30 during Saturday evenings.
“Glow opened on a very restricted basis, whereas the application will increase cinema screens by four, add new restaurants, new leisure facilities, and presumably opportunities for new retail.” - Cllr Ian Armitt.
Bosses also suggest that the new attractions will encourage people to stay longer at the shopping centre, thus spreading the traffic over a longer period and easing congestion.
KCC Highways and Highways England do not object to the proposal, although the former believes improvements must be made to walking and cycling routes into the shopping centre.
Meanwhile, Linda Collins, from the Bean Residents Association, says improvements must be made to the nearby Bean Interchange.
She said: “We first proposed short term measures at Bean Interchange to KCC in 2011 and these were last discussed at a meeting on July 22 2015.
“The meeting was hosted by Bluewater, attended by KCC, the Highways Association, Bean Parish Council and Bean Residents Association.
“The proposals have stalled, apparently because of lack of KCC resources, awaiting KCC study and prioritisation.”
She also demanded a condition in the proposal that the applicant fund short term measures at the interchange, with Highways England not expecting it to arrive until 2023.
Bluewater bosses will take the concerns on board as they prepare to submit the transport management plan, which will be considered by committee chairman Cllr Derek Hunnisett, vice chairman Cllr Armitt and shadow chairman Cllr Pat Kelly.
If it is not considered acceptable, the entire application will have to go before the committee again in due course.
“The proposals will not only add further appeal to Bluewater, they will bring jobs and further opportunities to the local community.” - Bluewater spokesman.
Despite the traffic concerns, councillors at last night’s meeting largely backed the proposal due to the lack of similar attractions in both Dartford and Gravesend town centres.
The proposal sees the number of screens at Bluewater’s Showcase Cinema increase by four, bringing the total to 16, rivalling the likes of Westfield Stratford and Westfield London.
The new auditoriums would sport the latest surround sound systems and reclining seats, with each screen powered by so-called Xplus technology, which is said to be even better than IMAX.
These would occupy the top floor of Glow, with the bottom floor housing a new attraction. Some of the potential additions mooted include a bowling alley and a trampoline facility.
The large staircase fronting Thames Walk, which leads up towards the entrance to the cinema, will be demolished to make room for a new entrance to the downstairs attraction.
A Bluewater spokesman said: “We are constantly looking for ways to add the very best offers and new experiences for our guests.
“We have been working on detailed proposals to transform Glow’s upper hall to deliver a number of new cinema screens and three new flagship restaurants, and have recently submitted a planning application to Dartford Borough Council.
“The proposals will not only add further appeal to Bluewater, they will bring jobs and further opportunities to the local community.”
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