What is the future for The Howard Centre?

The Howard Centre. Picture: DANNY LOO

With M&S and Next closing, what will become of The Howard Centre. - Credit: Picture: DANNY LOO

The future of Welwyn Garden City's Howard Centre looks uncertain following the closure of Next last Saturday and the news that M&S to go in April,

Shoppers are now rightly concerned about what may happen to the once thriving shopping centre - opened in 1990 and named in honour of WGC founder Ebenezer Howard.

A focal point in the town centre, at the head of Howardsgate and attached to the railway station, The Howard Centre is in an ideal location, but businesses are leaving in their droves.

Eight units are currently vacant, meaning 20 per cent of the mall is unoccupied, and this could rise further when M&S goes and if the rumoured New Look closure also happens.

When you walk through The Howard Centre you notice plenty of people, but most are milling around, passing through, or simply coming to or from the train station.

There are very few people actually inside shops, and that is a major worry. More of a concern will be that by far the most popular store is M&S. What will happen when it goes later this year?

Inside of the Howard Centre, a shopping centre in Welwyn Garden City in Hertfordshire

Big empty units can be found in the South Mall. - Credit: Cmglee

There are very few stores to excite customers. There's nothing unique, nothing to make it stand out.

The South Mall is also desolate despite the presence of Boots and WHSmith, with big units that were formerly home to Next and Dorothy Perkins now standing empty and unused.

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There is a noticeable lack of restaurants and places to eat too, something that would surely improve shopping numbers and make The Howard Centre more appealing.

The question also has to be asked: is Welwyn Garden City a suitable town for a successful shopping mall?

With other large shopping centres such as The Mall in Luton and The Galleria in Hatfield, as well as both London and Cambridge just a train journey away, there is plenty of competition.

And with dwindling store numbers, it may simply be a case of other shopping centres being preferred by potential customers.

Whatever the problem may be, a solution needs to be found or The Howard Centre faces an uncertain and worrying future.

Welwyn Hatfield Times has contacted The Howard Centre for comment on closures and shoppers concerns, but is yet to receive a response.