BUSINESS owners and shop workers in Dartford have vented their frustration to News Shopper at Bluewater shopping centre's expansion plans.

As reported in last week's paper the centre's owners Lend Lease are consulting on proposals to create up to 1,500 jobs by expanding existing retail and catering space at the complex by 20 per cent.

But this hasn't gone down well in Dartford town centre as shops and businesses fight for trade in tough times for the highstreet.

"Bluewater's just a different animal," said David Drazny, 38, co-owner of Squires menswear on Spital Street. "We can't compete with them," he added.

"There's nothing in Dartford. All we seem to be attracting is little pound shops. All towns are suffering really." 

It was a similar story in Dartford's Priory shopping centre. Keely O'Reilly, 42, from Welling has worked on the National Lottery stand for two and a half years.

"Without a doubt it will take trade from Dartford," she said. "I don't think it will have a positive impact on the place at all." 

Daniel Ansell runs Priory Flowers and is equally unhappy about the plans. "It's a joke, it's not great for us retailers," he said. "In Dartford all it is is 99p shops and pound shops."

But at Bluewater even those who live in Dartford welcomed news of the expansion.

"Bluewater's already bad for Dartford," said Lysette Cook, 28, who is from the town but works as an assistant manager at the Leon fast food outlet.

"It's a completely different shopping experience anyway," she added.