PLANS for a major expansion of Broughton Shopping Park near Chester could seriously threaten city centre trade, retailers and councillors fear.
Chester City Council looks set to object to plans for a 15,000 sq m extension of the out-of-town retail park, situated on the A55 bypass a few miles from Chester.
The application, submitted to Flintshire County Council, would see four extra blocks of shops and the extension of an existing Tesco store, as well as new fast food restaurants. Chester traders say they are already suffering due to the enormous success of Cheshire Oaks and the Broughton site, which they claim are taking millions of pounds in business away from high street stores.
So far, the city is coping well with the aftermath of foot-and-mouth and the September 11 attacks and trade has been boosted by a record Christmas.
But councillors say the city can only take so much competition and fear the expansion threatens to further undermine a sector which employs more than 17pc of Chester's working population.
Council leader John Price said the council would probably object to the application.
He said: "This would be very bad news for Chester. We are extremely unhappy to see more development and we don't think it is needed.
"As buoyant as Chester is, there are limits."
Tara Jade, president of the Chester Chamber of Trade and Enterprise, added: "Again it is another out-of-town shopping centre chipping away at our city centre.
"It is not good news for Chester retailers. The unique experience of shopping in Chester will always stay but it is getting harder for local shops to survive and this is another threat to Chester businesses."
There are also concerns about the volume of traffic generated by the expansion.
The success of the application could depend on the viability of proposals for a new road which would carry traffic around Saltney.
The application is also accompanied by plans for a new business park on green belt land on the opposite side of the A55.
A spokesman for Flintshire planning department said it would be some months before the scheme was considered and that it could have to go before a public inquiry.
Broughton Shopping Park manager Colin Gilligan said the extension was needed to satisfy a huge customer demand for more retail outlets at the site.
"From day one the repeated question from visitors and customers has been 'when will you start phase two' and 'when will you give us more'.
"Broughton Shopping Park has been a success from the beginning and this application is a response to public demand," he said.