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Speculation more stores might leave city's centre
FEARS that chain stores will disappear from High Town were given further justification with TK Maxx’s relocation plans last week – while the council refuse to act, says a Herefordshire councillor.
Councillor Mark Hubbard insists there is “a whole list” of High Town stores now looking to take up one of the 20 Old Livestock Market lots, with H&M looking to open up a second branch there.
Initial plans restricted current city businesses to just 20 per cent of the development’s floorspace, however that policy was relaxed last year, opening the door for businesses to relocate from smaller High Town premises.
However while TK Maxx joined other national chains Next, Debenhams and Odeon in signing attractive letting agreements at the OLM, Coun Hubbard believes Hereford’s independent stores are being locked out.
He said the development does not support local businesses.
The It’s Our County leader now expects River Island to be the next high street giant to cross the road.
“Now that they’ve had the restrictions removed, one can assume River Island will be next – there is a reason it’s still not been rebuilt,” said Coun Hubbard.
“That’s how these developments work.”
The developer, Stanhope PLC, has about two-thirds of the floorspace to fill and while it insists it is not poaching companies from High Town, if approached it is obliged to listen to offers.
However RRA architect Garry Thomas maintains that High Town – not the OLM site – is best suited to attracting modern-day shoppers.
“With the massive shift online, to remain competitive shopping centres must evoke a ‘nice day out’,” said Mr Thomas, a former chairman of Hereford Civic Society.
“This sanitised experience – effectively an Odeon surrounded by several brandname shops – is wholly inappropriate and will never recreate the experience of an historic town centre.”
Further concerns were raised over the 25-year life span of the site’s buildings, announced last week.
Tenants will be required to pay for renewals, a fact Mr Thomas believes will lead to cut-rate leases on behalf of Stanhope.