No sign of major stores signing up

PUBLISHED: 12:38 29 January 2008 | UPDATED: 22:16 26 October 2009

No sign of major stores signing up

No sign of major stores signing up

SIR - Plans for a regenerated Hatfield town centre were first discussed many years ago, long before the vision of the super-hospital came and went. Now, at last, work is to commence with the building of a multi-storey car park, in place of the present fr

SIR - Plans for a regenerated Hatfield town centre were first discussed many years ago, long before the vision of the super-hospital came and went.

Now, at last, work is to commence with the building of a multi-storey car park, in place of the present free parking area on The Common.

Construction will take place in some six months and charges will of course be made for its usage.

No doubt Asda will then be encouraged to start charging also - and so much for the late Lord Salisbury's wish that that car park remain free in perpetuity for Hatfield residents!

But in the present financial climate there must be concern about just how quickly the improved shopping facilities will be up and running.

We still do not know which major retailers, if any, have been signed up and been locked in.

Woolworths apparently has dropped out and Debenhams wisely preferred the established WGC, but where are the other recognised and attractive names which are going to draw the crowds of shoppers in through the new bus station and the multi-storey car park?

Supposedly, St Modwen has been negotiating with these for many years - but who are they, and why the secrecy?

With the current downturn in UK retailing, some possible names may understandably be reluctant to take leases in the new, unproven, Hatfield shopping centre, with the attractive well-established Galleria and WGC so close at hand.

And will their banks, in the present cautious and restricted financial climate, be happy to fund their involvement in an unproven venture?

And, indeed, can St Modwen itself, big as it may be, remain sure that among its many other projects, its financial requirements for the Hatfield development, are still readily available - or will it too feel the pressure and delay or postpone planned activity?

If so, has St Modwen been firmly locked in - or does it have escape clauses - and could the ratepayers be left with the new multi-storey car park, an unfinished development and a write-off of expenses already incurred?

To add to these gloomy thoughts, we learn that the present post office facilities, cramped and untidy but genial and efficient as they are, will disappear under the approved compulsory purchase arrangements. What thought has been given to a new location for this essential service?

One bright spot though, is that the splendidly spacious, though underutilised White Lion Square, will remain with us for a little longer until eventually mainly submerged in the fine new Hatfield town centre, which hopefully will get completed some day.

Brian Bennett,

The Ryde,

Hatfield.

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