AS work finally forges ahead on the multi-million pound Designer Village at Scotch Corner, The Northern Echo was given exclusive access to the site to find out more about what visitors can expect when it opens in autumn 2023.

“I think people will be really surprised and delighted with the elevated quality of what we are offering here,” says Sarah Hodkinson, retail director of the Scotch Corner Designer Village.

“There are a lot of existing shopping centres and they don’t have the parking or they don’t have the leisure level, but now people, particularly since Covid, they want leisure, they want a day out, they want to be entertained and they want the whole package.”

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And while it may not look much more than a muddy field right now, by October next year the 55-acre site just off the A1 at Richmond will be bursting with designer shops, restaurants, a huge Blue Diamond garden centre and 2,000 parking spaces.

The development has been a long time coming, with the scheme first being given planning permission back in January 2015.

The Covid-19 pandemic meant that work ground to a halt for 18-months – pushing back the initially anticipated 2021 opening – but developers say that they are on track to open on October 19, 2023.

“We had done the excavation and archaeological work and we were just going to start phase one when Covid struck,” says Sarah. “It put the project on hold for 18-months or so, hence we are where we are now, but we got going as quickly as we possibly could as confidence has come back to the market.”

The Northern Echo: Sarah Hodkinson, Scotch Corner Designer Village retail directorSarah Hodkinson, Scotch Corner Designer Village retail director

The enforced hiatus meant the developers have had to contend with significant rises in inflation and construction costs.

The scale of the development also increased with the addition of the garden centre. Initially the scheme was mooted as a £50m development but that has now doubled, with an expected overall investment of £100m into the site.

Sarah said: “We are aiming to create something of superior quality; if the costs of building goes up, we will find the money because we are committed.”

There are already a host of big brand names confirmed for the village’s 80 outlets, including Hugo Boss, Tommy Hilfiger, Levi’s, Calvin Klein, Adidas and Joules to name a few.

Burger specialists Five Guys and Japanese-inspired cuisine chain Wagamama are among the food outlets confirmed.

And with just over 18-months to go until opening, Sarah says that 50 per cent of the outlets are taken, with a further 30 per cent under negotiations.

But it isn’t just international brand names that will occupy the village.

A clutch of ‘pop-up’ shops will be made available to independent traders or those who operate online and want the opportunity to experiment with a physical store on a short-term basis.

One major element of the overall scheme is the huge Blue Diamond garden centre which was given planning approval in June last year.

The Northern Echo: The designer village will have attractive landscaping and walking trails for dogsThe designer village will have attractive landscaping and walking trails for dogs

Some concern was raised at the time that the centre could take trade away from local garden centres, but Sarah said she hoped other retailers would benefit from the millions of visitors the village is expected to attract each year.

She said: “They (Blue Diamond) are not really a garden centre, they are home and leisure, lifestyle, candles, outdoor seating, barbecues, everything. I think it is wonderful that in conjunction with the village it will really connect with the local catchment.”

She added: “I think it is up to the neighbouring similar offers to harness that footfall that enters the area.

"People will stay (in the area) for days and they should see it as a stepping stone for more business for them.

"We will have a tourist information centre for people to come in and find out what else is in the area so I think there will a net gain for the area.”

The developers are also clear that the designer village will offer something different to traditional shopping centres such as the Metro Centre and McArthur Glen in York.

Instead of all the outlets being housed inside a massive structure, the shops will be outside on mini-streets.

The Northern Echo: Global brands including Adidas, Hugo Boss and Tommy Hilfiger are confirmed for the siteGlobal brands including Adidas, Hugo Boss and Tommy Hilfiger are confirmed for the site

Dogs will be welcome at the site, with special walking trails created for them complete with attractive landscaping and green spaces.

This should also help to attract a portion of the some 18million motorists passing the centre on the A1, some of whom will have their canine companions in tow as they travel elsewhere.

In its first year the developers estimate that the village will attract four million visitors, with a catchment area spanning the whole of the north, from southern Scotland down to the north east of Manchester.

When construction work is in full flow, some 400 people will be working on site and 1,000 people will be employed at the village.

The Northern Echo: Food and drink outlets will complement the retail offeringFood and drink outlets will complement the retail offering

A further 200 jobs will be on offer at the Blue Diamond centre. Sarah says: “This site was earmarked for industrial use before we saw it and we thought it would be better served for something much more exciting and relevant to the local community and as a destination for everyone.”

She added: “What we want is to bring something that people will be amazed about and want to bring their friends to.”

Over the coming months work will step up at the site; Northern Powergrid is already laying cables to connect the designer village to the electricity network and improvements had already been made to local roads to cater for the site’s two entrances and an additional entrance for the Blue Diamond centre.

So in less than two years' time, developers are confident that this muddy field in North Yorkshire will be home to the largest designer village in the North, providing millions of visitors a day out with a difference.

The Northern Echo: A Blue Diamond garden centre was given approval at the designer village last summerA Blue Diamond garden centre was given approval at the designer village last summer

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