‘Don’t forget us’ plea from Welwyn Garden City shopowners

BUSINESSOWNERS working in the shadow of the supermarket redevelopment have issued a plea to shoppers – don’t forget about us.

Fears that shops close to Sainsbury’s would suffer during the supermarket’s multi-million pound revamp have apparently been realised – as the WHT reported back in August before the works began.

With Sainsbury’s car park now closed and giant hoardings surrounding the building work, shopkeepers say they are feeling increasingly isolated and cut off from the rest of the town.

And even though traders admit the new supermarket will bring a much-needed boost to the area when it finally opens in late 2011, there are concerns that the next year will prove costly to their business – as borne out by the last month.

Uttam Amliwalla, owner of City Pharmacy in Church Road, said: “A lot of people are avoiding the area.

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“There’s been quite a dip in customers – they’re having problems finding a place to park, and it’s not easy for pedestrians, disabled people or mothers with pushchairs.

“We’ve been here almost 30 years, and we have many loyal customers, but we can’t rely just on them.

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“We need new customers.”

Maria Hann, owner of All About Me beauty salon in Church Road, said: “We’re all fighting to get through next year.

“It’s going to be great when its finished, but we need to work really hard to keep our customers – we need to let people know we’re open, we’re still trading and our hours are the same.”

Others said more needed to be done by both Sainsbury’s and Welwyn Hatfield Council to make more people aware that shops were still open.

Steven Chappell, manager of hairdressers Mark Lawrence in Church Road, said: “I thought there would be more done in the way of exposure to the rest of the town.

“I thought perhaps a sign would go up in the town centre telling people where we were. These are standard things that I thought either Sainsbury’s or the council would do.”

This week Sainsbury’s opened a new viewing platform at the junction of Church Road and Wigmores South, for residents and shoppers to see the development take shape.

Paul Tyler, Sainsbury’s project manager, added: “We are pleased to be opening the viewing platform and visitors, shoppers and residents will be now able to watch the new store take shape first hand.

“The regeneration of the town centre will benefit all the businesses once the new store is opened and we will keep the local community updated at every stage.”

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