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£100m Express Dairy development "will put South Ruislip on the map"
THE regeneration of South Ruislip has taken a big leap forward with news a multiplex cinema would be at the heart of the redeveloped Express Dairies site.
While the announcement by development partners Citygrove and Arla Foods came as a surprise to many, South Ruislip Residents' Association (SRRA) said it had been lobbying to get either a cinema or bowling alley on the site for some time.
Although HS2 still looms large, Citygrove said the proposed tunnel shaft in one corner of the site would not affect the scheme and would be cordoned off.
The 14.4-acre site has been derelict since the dairy closed in 2006. Citygrove estimate building work could start in early 2013 if permission is granted in autumn.
SRRA transport spokesman Sid Jackson said he was delighted at the outcome. "The community will thrive from it," he told the Gazette.
"We have already got a new youth centre opened and a new library is being built. If we can tie it all together this development will provide a central point for the area. As it stands we think this scheme is as good as it gets."
The redevelopment had been in the pipeline for many years. Previous proposals and site plans had indicated new housing, shops, offices and a long-awaited 'town centre' for a community which has never really had one.
But the announcement last Thursday that a 10-screen Cineworld cinema would be a key component of the £100million revival of the former Express Dairies site in Victoria Road came as a pleasant surprise to most people.
In addition, Citygrove said there would be between 100 and 150 new homes, four restaurants, a 60 or 80-bed hotel, public plaza and a 80-100,000 sq ft supermarket all squeezed in to the 14.4 acre site.
At an exhibition in the Days Hotel, residents told the Gazette about their thoughts on such a landmark development arriving on their doorstep.
Hazel Rossall, of Long Drive, said: "We would probably go to the cinema every week, it would save us a journey in the car."
Rosemary Fletcher, who lives just a stone's throw away in Braintree Road, said: "This would put South Ruislip on the map.
"It looks like they have covered a lot of bases for retail but we hope small businesses will be involved if there is that opportunity."
Residents were invited to attend the exhibition as another chance to submit their views prior to a final planning application being submitted in late summer.
Citygrove had said that input from previous exhibitions in 2010 persuaded them that the South Ruislip site would be an ideal location for a cinema.
Still, there were further suggestions on what should be included. Steve Whitfield, of West Mead, said: "The facilities look good but I would like to see a pub added to it and something family orientated."
Ben Fitzgerald, of Manningtree Road, said: "I think it [the cinema] is a brilliant idea. The main concern is traffic but they seem to have done a lot of work on it."
Traffic was a common concern raised at the exhibition, with drivers complaining that the junction of Long Drive and Victoria Road was already jammed at peak times.
However, Citygrove assured the Gazette that extensive traffic surveys had been done and work to improve the junction would be undertaken as part of a deal with Hillingdon Council and Transport for London should planning permission be granted.
Andrew Rennie, the firm's managing director, said: "We have greatly reduced the number of homes and introduced the leisure facilities residents felt were lacking in the area, in order to create a vibrant scheme which will help to deliver a new town centre destination for South Ruislip.
"The key queries focused on transport. Studies are currently underway and we will be proposing a wide-range of solutions to mitigate the effects of the development.
"The proposals for a mixed-use scheme will help to spread journeys throughout the day and will also encourage linked trips.
"Many customers will be those already using the highway network to reach Sainsbury's, or supermarkets out of South Ruislip, who will transfer over to make use of the new facilities."
However, not everyone was convinced. Citygrove has suggested that one of the potential occupants of a new supermarket on their site would be Sainsbury's themselves, meaning the existing store would be closed.
Former SRRA chairman Don Ticehurst told the Gazette: "This is just a development for big business and ignores local problems.
"Traffic issues will be horrendous, especially if Sainsbury's moves into it. All traffic from the east would have to go through the Long Drive-Victoria Road junction to get there and would put more pressure on it."
Mr Ticehurst also warned that cinema-goers might feel more vibrations than from just the surround-sound with HS2 due to be built directly underneath the area.
A tunnel shaft is proposed for one corner of the site which Arla Foods owns, but which would not feature in the mixed-use redevelopment.
Citygrove associate director George Hardcastle said: "We will make sure to use all the information we have got on HS2 so far and build the site around it. We will do
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