Crawley Borough Council has been in discussion with top department stores interested in being part of the town’s ongoing regeneration project.
With the chances of John Lewis moving to town sinking lower every day, the former leader of the council insisted potential investors still had confidence in Crawley.
Phase one of the Town Centre North scheme – to build a Morrison’s supermarket, car park, restaurants and Travelodge hotel – is well under way in the High Street.
A planning application for phase two from chosen developer Stanhope plc was due to be submitted at the end of the summer but has been delayed until the new year.
Cllr Bob Lanzer, Cabinet member for Planning and Economic Development, said: “It’s nice to see people investing in difficult times so heavily in Crawley and this is a substantial development when you add it into other projects such as the North East Sector housing and Kilnwood Vale housing. It’s clear there’s a lot of confidence in the town.
“We have had discussions with retailers who would be able to contribute to Town Centre North. I’m talking about department stores.”
Phase 2 would involve pedestrianising The Boulevard and demolishing the Poundland store in Queens Square to create a direct route for shoppers from County Mall to The Boulevard.
Cllr Lanzer refused to name any of the department stores in discussion with the council but previous names rumoured to have been interested included Zara, Hollister, Abercrombie and Fitch and Cath Kidston.
Speculating about the future of phase two and the prospect of phase three of the regeneration, Cllr Lanzer said: “I think I would like to see a mixed leisure and retail usage along The Boulevard, probably including some more restaurant outlets.
“A bit of a mixture and to encourage a phase 3 which I would see as being more retail led. I’m speculating really but it would hopefully redevelop all of The Boulevard.”
And as for John Lewis, Cllr Lanzer insisted: “It’s not over ‘til it’s over and that means planning permission.”