London firm defends Welwyn Garden City pub/restaurant plans

The former Welwyn Garden City post office premises in Howardsgate.

The former Welwyn Garden City post office premises in Howardsgate. - Credit: Archant

A London company has hit back at Welwyn Hatfield Council for suggesting not enough has been done to market a town centre unit for retail use following a proposal to convert it into a pub/restaurant.

As part of its objection to the plans at the old post office site in Howardsgate, Welwyn Hatfield Council raised concerns over its marketing.

Mohammed Azram, of the council’s planning policy team, wrote: “Although 17-19 Howardsgate has been vacant since 2016, we would raise a number of concerns in relation to the information that JLL have provided to demonstrate that the property has been extensively and actively marketed or there is a lack of demand for A1 retail use.”

Mr Azram continues: “A vague assessment has been provided to explain why there is a lack of demand for A1 retail floor space at the property.”

He adds: “It is considered that the proposed change of use [to a pub/restaurant] would result in an excessive non-retail frontage to the detriment of this part of town.”

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JLL has since issued a robust response, detailing the various channels the property was marketed through, including platforms with about 16,000 subscribers.

JLL outlined how the unit had been marketed with a £120,000 per annum rent with various lease agreements available.

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Mr Azram also questioned why two potential tenants, Loaf Furniture and Red Squirrel Brewery, showed an interest but did not take the plunge.

In response, JLL stated Loaf’s preference was for “more roadside traffic and a better showroom environment than a traditional retail high street”.

JLL described The Red Squirrel Brewery as “an attractive tenant”, but added that “it would have been financially unviable without a second tenant lined up for the remainder of the unit to agree and carry out a subdivision”.

Furthermore, JLL drew the council’s attention to a council officer report in respect of an approved application for 1-3 Howardsgate (now the Côte Restaurant) in which a council officer writes “the evolving role of town centres as leisure destinations as much as they are retail destinations”.

Senior surveyor Richard Yendle, of JLL, wrote: “In light of the above, I trust the development management team will be able to lift their objection to the proposed change of use in response of the comprehensive nature of the marketing undertaken by Jones Lang LaSalle Ltd (JLL).”

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