M&S ‘interested’ in Welwyn Garden City foodhall despite Howard Centre closure

Tony Kingsbury Howard Centre Marks and Spencer

M&S have confirmed an interest in opening a foodhall in Welwyn Garden City. - Credit: Archant/PA

Marks & Spencer could be staying in Welwyn Garden City despite closing their Howard Centre store, after confirming they ‘remain interested’ in opening a foodhall in the town.

After the retailer announced they would be shutting their doors in April, Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council have made desperate pleas for them to stay, including a top level meeting between the council, Marks & Spencer and The Howard Centre last Thursday.

Their efforts could eventually pay off, with M&S property director, Will Smith, admitting that although plans are in an early stage, they are ‘interested’ in opening a foodhall in the town.

“Although plans are at a very early stage and will not be deliverable in the short term, we do remain interested in potentially opening a new M&S Foodhall in the Welwyn Garden City area and we have discussed our requirements with the council for a larger unit in a highly accessible location,” he said.

WHBC council leader Tony Kingsbury, who has been working closely with M&S and The Howard Centre, added: “At our meeting, I also expressed to the M&S representatives the strong desire of the council, our residents and our community that an M&S food offer should be retained in our borough and they are definitely taking this on board and are actively looking at suitable locations.”

Councillor Kingsbury also confirmed that the walkway which connects Hunters Bridge car park to The Howard Centre via the unit currently occupied by Marks & Spencer, will remain open.

“M&S have agreed that a passage will be retained from the Hunters Bridge car park to the Howard Centre and ongoing dialogues are taking place involving the council to ensure that this will happen,” he said.

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A spokesman for The Howard Centre added: “Whilst we are disappointed at the proposed closure of M&S, we do understand their business decision based on the changing habits of their customers.

“We will continue to support M&S to help them find a solution for the premises which they no longer intend to trade from, and we look forward to working with them together with the support of the council and other local stakeholders to identify both short and long-term opportunities for the space.”