Stafford retailers warn new complex could “divide” town centre

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Stafford town centre has had more than its fair share of woes during the economic downturn.

Vacancy rates are high and many empty retail units now line Stafford’s High Street.

Some famous names along Gaolgate Place, Greengate Street and Bridge Street have fallen foul of the recession, along with numerous independent retailers. The Guildhall Shopping Centre lies half empty, and Princes Street is devoid of life save for a number of charity shops.

Stafford Borough Council is hoping to attract shoppers and new investment with the Riverside leisure and entertainment complex – a £70 million development bringing in new shops and restaurants.

But some, like Karen Entwistle of Stafford Fancy Dress & Party in Princes Street, fear this new development could potentially cause more harm to those areas already suffering from deserting tenants and shoppers.

One of the few positive attractions to the north end for shoppers is Marks & Spencer, but this big name will be vacating their existing store next year for a new unit at the Riverside.

The Guildhall Shopping Centre is also set to lose River Island at the same time for the same reason.

There is a fear among retailers that a North/South divide could open up within Stafford.

“We don’t seem to get the attention the rest of the town get,” said Karen.

“We don’t get decorations at Christmas, we don’t have CCTV, it’s down to the independent stores to do their own thing.

“I think the council could do a lot more.”

Ted Manders, head of planning and regeneration at Stafford Borough Council, conceded that there was the danger a North/South divide could open up in Stafford.

However he feels it would be a short-term issue and that a joint study by DTZ and Urbed has been commissioned to report on how to best support the north part of the town centre.

The study’s findings are due to be published in the summer.

Watch StaffsLive reporter Richard Hilton’s video report, below:

 

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