Big retailers are being encouraged “daily” to move into Sutton High Street in a bid to diversify the town centre despite a tough year, the council insists.

Major chains have been forced to shut some of their stores across south London, including this borough, following a nightmarish first half of 2018.

But the new H&M coming soon, among other things, is hoped to boost footfall and help Sutton compete with other boroughs like neighbouring Croydon and Kingston.

Steven Harp asked whether the council has a shortlist of potential retailers it hunts at a Sutton Local Committee meeting on September 6.

He said: “I know, for example, in Croydon they have the Boxpark which Croydon Council actively sought and went after and offered incentives to.

“I know they can't really specify exactly what retail they do want in that development but they can be quite clearly put pressure on the developer to bring it to a certain way, and make it clear that they don't just want a generic café or whatever.

“I think it'd be interesting to know if Sutton [Council] actively identify - I know we've mentioned leisure today - retailers that we want in this borough, and do we actively have a list of people we want to get here.”

Mr Harp made a further point about Sutton Town Centre after a presentation at the meeting highlighted goings-on from the Market Place Sutton project.

The initiative was backed with £500,000 in central Government funding during 2015 to help “jump-start” improvements to the northern end of Sutton High Street.

He said, while he is not criticising the initiative itself as he is pleased with its progress, some parts of the area “hasn’t exactly regenerated” over the time it has been active.

Sutton Town Centre manager George McCullough, who hosted the presentation, underlined the work which has – and still is – ongoing.

When asked whether the council “actively identifies” opportunities for new retail and leisure, he said: “Yes. We're trying daily to bring people in. As I said, I think H&M is going to be a big catalyst.

“I think you may know that Sports Direct has bought Times Square Shopping Centre, they're going to bring two of their franchises into that shopping centre and that will bring massive footfall into them.

“They're bringing one of their franchises into the old Poundworld. Again, it'll be a big footfall driver into the town centre.

“The council own the [now closed] Maplin store, we have an offer for that unit as well.

“There is momentum and, to answer your point, yes. I've spoken to all the retailers we want to see in the town centre and we are trying to bring them here.”

No other new retailers were specifically mentioned, while the opening date for the new H&M is expected "before Christmas".