Shoppers predict ‘demise’ of Welwyn Garden City town centre after store closures announced

The Howard Centre. Picture: DANNY LOO

The Howard Centre is losing its Next and M&S stores. - Credit: Picture: DANNY LOO

Welwyn Garden City residents are predicting the ‘demise’ of the town centre after Next and Marks & Spencer confirmed they would both be closing their stores.

Clothing retailer Next will be shutting their store on Saturday, while M&S is set to go in April.

The news has been met with concern from shoppers over the future of both The Howard Centre - where the stores were based - and the town centre as a whole.

Welwyn Hatfield Times reader Sharon Roberts: “Terrible news, with Next closing this weekend and now M&S it’s not going to be long before more shops will go and they can close The Howard Centre and build more flats.”

A number of readers agreed, with another predicting the ‘demise’ of Welwyn Garden City town centre.

“Looks like the demise of another town centre however favoured by the council over Hatfield, next thing it will be full of charity and coffee shops and lots of disgruntled residents,” said Ian Dowse.

“Terrible news. The start of the death of the town centre unless they get another decent retailer in who drives footfall. Fingers crossed,” said Kathryn Lyddon.

Lindsay McMullan said: “This will mark the beginning of the end for the Howard Centre. There really isn't much else in there to attract people.”

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Some shoppers believe that M&S’ decision to close their Welwyn Garden City site is because of the retailer's new store opening on Stevenage’s Roaring Meg Retail Park.

“This was on the cards as soon as the new 'out of town' Stevenage branch was announced, and they wonder why we have the death on the high street,” said Helen Selwyn

“Really don't understand this at all. It's all well and good saying there is one in Stevenage, but it's quite a distance away, especially for those who live south of the county,” added Alison Barker.

After sharing the news of the store closures on Facebook, this newspaper received more than 300 comments from readers, including Susan Griffiths
who said: “Another one bites the dust. Very sad. Not looking good for Welwyn Garden City.”

Noah Barker added: “The closure of the local M&S will really hurt the town. Imagine if John Lewis and Waitrose went.”