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Shopping Centre Demolition

In shocking news, an estimated 10% of the UK’s 700 major shopping centres could face demolition in the coming years, thanks in part to the COVID pandemic and the change in behaviour of many shoppers.

The surge in online shopping, which was already on the rise before the pandemic and has grown considerably in the last 18 months, means that footfall at indoor shopping centres is dramatically down from its peak; with many outlets forced to close due to either rising costs of retail space or an unsustainable business model, there are now over 30 centres with more than half of their shops standing empty and more than a third with considerable closures.

While some retail spaces will be redeveloped or repurposed for housing or other business needs, a number of large centres will be completely demolished. Demolition work is already underway in some regions, with more expected to commence in 2022. Among the major outlets set to be levelled are shopping centres in Nottingham, London and the North East. Slough’s Queensmere retail venue is a prominent example of how much work is required to regenerate a region; specialist demolition contractors are expected to commence work on site in 2023, with the complete overhaul of the space into tens of thousands of square feet of homes and offices not due for completion for some 14 years.

Shopping Centre Demolition

A major problem facing the traditional shopping centre is that major high street chains are rapidly disappearing, with prominent names such as John Lewis, Topshop and Marks and Spencer either disappearing entirely or considerably downscaling the number of physical outlets. Coupled with a severe decline in dining out and the huge boom in online shopping, many centres have simply become unsustainable and can’t compete with the major online retail platforms. An estimated 30% of casual shopping is now carried out over the Internet, with younger people particularly likely to buy online. Rising transport and parking costs have also accelerated the decline in town centre shopping.

Shopping centre demolition is not merely being used for office or living space; while some of the country’s wealthier areas have a growing need for housing and business premises, there are also some regions aiming to transform their outdated retail parks into urban living or leisure spaces. New parks are planned in various Midlands and North Eastern towns and cities, with Nottingham particularly investing in the creation of more town centre green spaces. Plans will also depend on affordability, especially where the former retail venues were council owned and which will have seen a huge loss in their initial investment.

Shopping Centre Demolition
Shopping Centre Demolition

There is also a question of sustainability and challenges in the new “green economy”. The environmental impact that a large demolition company can have when destroying existing concrete structures can be huge, especially when some centres cannot be repurposed, or their materials reused for new development.

The loss of so many of the nation’s long-standing retail venues will be an ongoing challenge and the effects will resonate for decades to come. It remains to be seen whether towns and cities can successfully repackage and regenerate their economies by investment in new leisure, business, or housing stock.

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