Not in my best interest

PUBLISHED: 12:05 22 June 2006 | UPDATED: 10:20 06 May 2010

I operate the camera store and Kodak processing lab in the Broadway. Last November the Heritage Foundation unveiled plans to significantly redevelop Letchworth Town Centre. Many traders were looking forward to a plan that retained the specialist nature an

I operate the camera store and Kodak processing lab in the Broadway. Last November the Heritage Foundation unveiled plans to significantly redevelop Letchworth Town Centre. Many traders were looking forward to a plan that retained the specialist nature and unique Garden City appeal that has become a little tattered after years without significant investment.

It is a great shame they chose to draw up these plans in secret and without prior consultation with my fellow retailers or even the Town Centre Partnership.

We had hoped for more and improved covered walkways, as any trader will tell you that shoppers go elsewhere when it rains, yet the town thrives when the sun is out.

The Arena Parade shops and flats need re-facing with new doors and windows. The nasty metal canopies last repainted so many years ago, has to be replaced and extended so shoppers can get around the town without getting soaked.

The Wynd will never do well unless it is opened up and made visible from the roads and more accessible from pedestrian areas.

However, what the Heritage Foundation propose seems less about improving our existing Town Centre with none of the above obvious needs catered for. What we have is a plan to cram as many flats (seemingly without allocated car parking) into the area as possible. No covered shopping, no opening up of the Wynd. And apparently the Arena cannot be refurbished as it is an old building so has to be knocked down.

Well, certainly if they are going to build and sell so many new flats, the Arena will have to be knocked down, but was it not the very same Heritage Foundation that showed us old buildings like the Spirella, Cinema and ICL building can indeed be very successfully refurbished?

Shoppers come to Letchworth precisely because it is not like the other towns the Foundation wishes to emulate and more would come if it were easier to park and a little more attractive. Do we have to follow the path of so many other towns and lose our independent shops in favour of more profitable department stores?

There has been a lot of misinformation concerning people's support for this plan, I have been told that almost all of the other retailers are in favour of the plan and at meetings we have been told that the Town Centre Partnership is 100 per cent behind it. Yet when Terry Cox and myself consulted other traders we found a completely different truth and as a member of the Town Centre Partnership myself I can tell you that support is certainly not 100 per cent.

So please, whatever your views, complete our survey and let us know if you really accept this plan or not. It's your Town Centre.

Richard Weston , Photo Finish of Letchworth, (for now!)

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