Freeport plans pounds 45m designer shopping village in Yorkshire

FREEPORT Leisure, the property group, yesterday unveiled plans to build the biggest designer shopping and leisure village in Europe. The 30-acre retail development will be built near Pontefract in Yorkshire.

The new village will be on the site of the former Glass Houghton coalmine and will cost pounds 45m to build. It will include 250,000 square feet of retail space as well as bars and restaurants.

The development forms part of a grand plan to regenerate the area. Whitbread, the leisure giant, is understood to be planning to build an indoor ski slope, a hotel and restaurants next door to Freeport Leisure's development. Together, the schemes could bring thousands of new jobs to the area.

Freeport Leisure revealed yesterday that it had cashed in on disappointing high-street sales in the run-up to Christmas. Shops were left with huge amounts of excess stock after Christmas which they were forced to off- load to Freeport Leisure at vast discounts. Customers have been able to pick up bargains on up-to-date fashion ranges. The group offers clothes from high-street retailers such as Next and Laura Ashley at half price.

This will be Freeport's fourth site and it plans to open another three villages within the next few years. It has recently opened in Braintree, Essex, and is expanding its original site at Hornsea, north of Hull.

To fund the rapid expansion Freeport is likely to launch a rights issue in the near future and is considering forming joint ventures with other property groups. Freeport's shares reacted positively to the news, jumping 30.5p to 289.5p as it announced a rise in pre-tax profits to pounds 1.4m (pounds 1.02m).

Factory outlets and out-of-town retail villages have become extremely popular over the last few years, drawing customers from the high street with offers of cheap designer clothes.

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