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More 'villages' threaten the high street

Britain's largest developer of factory shopping centres is to open a further four "villages" in the UK by the end of the decade. The new centres will cost pounds 250m to build and add almost 1 million square feet of retail space, largely out of town.

The developments will fuel concerns that UK high streets will continue to suffer in spite of stricter planning guidelines.

The new centres will open near junction 28 on the M1 between Derby and Sheffield in late 1997, in Ashford, Kent, in 1998 and later in York and Brigend, Wales. Only the Ashford site is in the town centre.

The sites will be developed by BAA McArthur Glen, the joint venture that opened the Cheshire Oaks centre in the Wirral last year. Another is due to open in Swindon next year.

Modelled on the factory shopping concept in the US, the centres let space to high-profile brand retailers such as Timberland and Ralph Lauren who use the shops to sell excess or unwanted stock at lower prices. Other sites are the Clark's Village in Street, Somerset, and Bicester Village, Oxfordshire. Joey Kaempfer, BAA McArthur Glen's chief executive, said: "There is room for around 15 large centres in the UK with the current planning restrictions." He denied that the new developments would undermine local high streets. "Some retailers who open in our centres say their local town centre branches benefit as a result."