A MULTI-million pound expansion is planned for an edge-of-town retail park.

Three new units are planned for the Arnison Centre, in Pity Me, near Durham, plus Pets at Home would move into the currently vacant former Comet unit, making way for its current premises to be divided into smaller shops.

The new units, totalling 600sq m of floorspace, would be built between Pets at Home and McDonald’s, near Rotary Way, and probably house restaurants and cafes.

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No tenants have yet been confirmed but discussions are said to be ongoing with “a number of operators”.

Planning applications have been submitted to Durham County Council seeking consent for the changes.

In a supporting planning statement, Newcastle-based Nathaniel Lichfield and Partners say: “Together, the proposals will help to enhance the vitality and viability of the centre, and increase the range of retail and leisure uses provided, allowing people to meet more of their needs in one location.”

Explaining the scheme is part of a wider modernisation programme for the 25,000sq m, 25-year-old complex, it says the proposed development would “make a significant contribution to the economic, social and environmental well-being of Durham”, enhance consumer choice and create a “significant number of job opportunities”.

Local county councillor Mark Wilkes said following discussions Arnison Centre bosses had agreed to: introduce a three-hour parking limit across the complex, provide extra staff parking behind the units and improve road safety and landscaping.

Coun Wilkes said the development would help to fill the empty Comet unit, increase the variety of shopping at the centre and bring extra jobs to the area.

He said he remained concerned about congestion and parking.

However, he added: “The loss of parking spaces is significantly less within the site than when a previous application was brought forward and the additional measures should actually increase parking availability within the site.”

Members of the public can comment on the plans online at durham.gov.uk until Friday, February 7, using the references CE/13/01688/FPA and CE/13/01687/FPA.