An £8 million plan to convert an empty M&S unit in a prominent Leamington Spa shopping centre into prime office space could see up to 400 jobs created in the town centre.
The owners of the Royal Priors Shopping Centre in Leamington are aiming to convert the former Marks and Spencer’s store into 30,000 sq ft of office space and would add an additional office floor and a new roof terrace.
Marks & Spencer, which was based at Royal Priors since 1987, vacated the premises last November to move to Leamington Shopping Park, and the unit has been unoccupied since.
The plans would be one of the first in the country to see shopping centre retail space converted into offices, with two major companies in advanced talks with letting agents Wareing & Co about moving in.
The plans for the additional floor have been presented to Warwick District Council’s Committee Design Forum and have subsequently been submitted for planning permission.
Bill Wareing, owner of Wareing & Co, said: “It is fantastic that despite the disruption that COVID-19 has caused, companies are still looking to back the town centre office as a viable option.
“With changes to the work-from-home guidance recently announced by the government, more workers are predicted to come back into the office, and many companies simply want more attractive spaces for their staff to work in.
“This transformation of the former Marks & Spencer’s store at the Royal Priors is a great example of that and will bring new jobs in high-skilled occupations into the town centre, which is brilliant news for Leamington’s high street businesses.
“The town centre is attractive for companies to base themselves in, thanks to its excellent transport links, independent high street businesses, cafes, restaurants and its charming setting.
“Consumers’ changing habits and the challenges of the pandemic meant it was difficult to market the unit to a major retailer. But if high streets are to prosper, different thinking is needed.
“We look forward to the plans being submitted and ultimately helping Leamington’s economy recover post-pandemic.”
LaSalle, who manage Royal Priors, received planning permission to change the use of the M&S unit to offices and to make alterations to the Satchwell Walk entrance in 2021 and have been involved in proactive discussions with Warwick District Council over the future of the department store space. The additional floor will meet further demand for office accommodation within the centre.
A spokesperson for LaSalle said: “Through active asset management and the hard work and dedication of the project team we are delighted to progress our strategy for Royal Priors. The introduction of unrivalled office accommodation addresses demand, creates employment and helps to deliver a sustainable asset for the future.”