Despite welcoming millions of visitors each year, Canterbury, like other places in Kent, has felt the impact of a changing retail landscape and customer behaviour. Biggleston Yard will bring a new dimension to the city’s visitor experience.
In terms of its performance, Canterbury’s city centre’s year-on-year footfall for 2019 is 12.2% down on 2018. The UK’s overall performance saw a fall of only 4.7% during the same period, suggesting Canterbury has performed poorly compared to the rest of the country.
With Canterbury less than an hour away from London St Pancras by Southeastern’s Highspeed train, it means Biggleston Yard would present another compelling reason for people to visit – and stay overnight – in the city.
Above the market hall, two new storeys would be added to create a new destination restaurant. The new buildings forming the arcade through Biggleston Yard would include small retail units at ground floor, with the serviced apartments on the upper floors.
A new public open space, linked to nearby streets by pedestrianised alleyways, would provide an exciting place for residents and visitors to spend time in the heart of the city. The space could be used for licensed music and performance arts – and be another important public amenity.
The public increasingly demands more of their visits to city centres, looking for more of an experience with everyday shopping now done out-of-town or online. As a result, centres like Canterbury need to evolve, and Biggleston Yard presents one such opportunity.
While being sympathetic to Canterbury’s heritage and history, Biggleston Yard is looking to bring the atmosphere and visitor experience offered by the likes of Mercato Metropolitano, Borough Market and Altrincham Market to the city.
Equally, there is not the demand for the development of the entire site for new office accommodation in the centre of the city.
As a result, the only viable and sustainable option is a scheme that meets the needs of retailers and restaurant operators, but also incorporates city centre living, leisure accommodation and a small amount of commercial space.
Today’s retail landscape has changed. A site the size of Biggleston Yard is no longer sustainable for just retailing, as shown by the closure of Nasons Department Store. And despite offering the site for occupation by a single retailer, none have come forward, due to its location, shape and existing buildings on the site.
Visit Kent, which champions the county’s tourism and leisure industry, has identified a need for more bed-space throughout Kent, including Canterbury. However, the size and shape of the site – and its limited high street presence – does not lend itself to the viable development of a high-quality hotel. The Biggleston Yard site is also very close to the existing and well-respected Abode Hotel.
We believe the serviced apartments will complement existing hotel operators and cater for a specific and growing section of the visitor market.
Canterbury is important to the overall health of Kent’s economy. The county’s population is expected to rise by 396,300 people by 2031 and it is vital that Kent remains an attractive place to visit, live, study and to work in. Biggleston Yard will enhance the appeal of Canterbury, and support the wider Kent economy.
It is anticipated that the retail, leisure and commercial operations attracted to Biggleston Yard will make it an important location for local employment in the city.