Part of Welwyn Garden City Debenhams may be turned into 27 flats
PUBLISHED: 11:16 04 July 2019 | UPDATED: 12:58 04 July 2019
A planning application has been submitted to turn part of Welwyn Garden City's Debenhams site into 27 flats.
Debenhams announced in April that its Welwyn Garden City store would close on January 31, 2020, after the retailer went into administration.
The 33,975 sq ft building at 26 Stonehills was then listed for rent at £225,000 per annum - a reduction from the £340,000 Debenhams is currently paying - with the possibility to split up the rental space.
READ MORE: Debenhams in Welwyn Garden City set to close
The plan, which was submitted to Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council on June 17, is to turn the first and second floors of the store into residential accommodation.
This would keep the ground and basement floor for commercial use, which has been up for rent at £150,000 per annum.
An accompanying document, prepared on behalf of the owners of the building by chartered surveyors Brasier Freeth, revealed the site was offered for rent to 111 companies during March 2019, as Debenhams had previously announced it would not renew the lease.
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Very few of the retailers - just fashion store Edinburgh Woollen Mill, Hitio Gym, catering establishment Loungers and Wagamamas - said they had an interest in the building, and then only if certain conditions were met.
READ MORE: Welwyn Garden City Debenhams building on the market ahead of store closure
Primark's property executive Sara Tack told Brasier Freeth: "Welwyn Garden City isn't a large enough shopping location for Primark so even if you extended it would not be an acceptable location."
A key obstacle to using the whole retail space, the report says, has been a lack of dedicated car parking, the proximity of John Lewis, the lack of space for delivery of goods and the overall decline in department stores.
"It is our overriding recommendation that the council supports these alternative uses, as the building is an important link between the Howard Shopping Centre and John Lewis," the report says.
"The prospect of this unit becoming and potentially remaining vacant for a prolonged period would have an adverse impact on the overall retail circuit and the vitality and viability of Welwyn Garden City centre."
To view or comment on the application, go to: planning.welhat.gov.uk/Planning/Display/6/2019/1452/MAJ