What next for vacant Welwyn Garden City sites?
PUBLISHED: 07:00 12 May 2018
As four prominent town centre spaces lay empty in Welwyn Garden City, the chairman of Welwyn Hatfield Chamber of Commerce has urged people to remember how important shops are to community life.
Number 22 Parkway remains boarded up with unkempt greenery after two failed planning applications by JD Wetherspoon in two years to turn it into a pub.
Across the road is the sorry-looking Parkway Bar, also boarded up following its ‘end of an era bash’ on December 30.
Moving into Howardsgate and the former post office premises remain empty after a failed planning application for a gym.
The latest addition to the list of large unoccupied units is the former Argos site in Fretherne Road.
Unconfirmed rumours suggest developers are eyeing up Argos as a new location for a gym and that the Parkway Bar site is being favoured as a Thai restaurant.
But Welwyn Hatfield Council confirmed there had been no recent planning applications in connection with any of the above locations.
A council spokesman said: “While we are keen to help get thriving businesses into these units, our influence on the retail offering in WGC is somewhat limited, as we don’t own many of the freeholds.”
The spokesman highlighted how the council works with the Business Improvement District (BID), an organisation established by local businesses, to help improve and promote WGC town centre.
Chamber of Commerce chairman Nick Brown said: “The time has come for us to decide the sort of communities we want to live in.
“Retail across the country is being badly hit by online shopping.
“In the period from 2006 to 2016 mainstream retailers have seen stagnation in their share prices, whereas Amazon over the same period has seen 1,910 per cent growth.
“That is staggering and demonstrates the size of the impact.
“The difference being premises’ costs.
“Let us not forget that our shopping experiences are an important part of our community life, where we meet, have coffee, make new friends and plan things for our families.
“They are part of the glue that holds our communities together.”
Mr Brown also called for an increase in free parking time for shoppers to help increase footfall.