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Stores will not open by Christmas
TWO new large stores at the heart Abingdon’s £4m shopping precinct revamp will not be open for Christmas.
The two-storey shops are being created out of five old units, and other work will see the canopies removed, facades renewed and pitched roofs added.
Last night developer NewRiver said while the revamp would be finished for the important Christmas trading period the two large shops would not be filled.
Scaffolding and hoardings have surrounded the 1960s Abbey Shopping Precinct since April.
Some traders have reported losses of up to 50 per cent and blamed the work for deterring customers.
Abingdon Chamber of Commerce president Paul Townsend said it was vital to have the stores filled to increase footfall.
He said: “It would be really great if it was finished by Christmas and all filled. It’s been going on for quite a while now.
“The shops are feeling it at the moment with some people just not going down there.
“Once it is all finished it is very important to get them filled as soon as possible. It will boost not just the precinct but the whole of the town.”
Ian Collett, owner of The Bookstore, has suffered a 50 per cent drop in takings.
He said: “We need footfall, we need a destination store.”
He added: “It’s pretty bleak at the moment. People aren’t coming into the town because of the state of it.
“It’s difficult for us because we know how much the town needs this.”
Traders were given a five per cent business rates reduction in June.
But Peter Wiblin, owner of Abingdon News Plus, said his takings were down 20 per cent. He said he would campaign to increase the reduction to 10 per cent and was also pressing for a 20 per cent rent cut from landlords Scottish Widows Investment Partnership. (SWIP) He added: “We need the thing to be done and finished and operational. It’s not a functional town centre. It’s a mess.”
Toys UK closed this summer. Martin Hughes, spokesman for NewRiver, which manages the precinct on behalf of SWIP, said the revamp was still expected to be completed by Christmas.
He added: “The units will be completed but there will be fitting out going on and it’s not clear yet whether that will be completed before Christmas.
“But the intention is to have some occupiers in by the early part of the New Year.”
He said traders would see the benefits of the work after it was completed.
He said no deal had yet been struck to fill either store, adding: “We are very confident we will get some good retail outlets operating out of there. That’s why the money was committed in the first place.”