Challenge for retail

SIR - Louise McEvoy s article Empty shops just a sign of the times (Comet, March 27) confirmed that, although not alone, the retail sector is facing challenging times. The research that the Heritage Foundation undertook, and which led to our current pla

SIR - Louise McEvoy's article "Empty shops just a sign of the times" (Comet, March 27) confirmed that, although not alone, the retail sector is facing challenging times.

The research that the Heritage Foundation undertook, and which led to our current plans to further revitalise Letchworth Garden City's town centre, certainly identified the threats but also the opportunities.

Having, just this week, secured planning consent for the first of our schemes - the massive improvement to the "Street Scene" and on street car parking in the town centre, albeit with some conditions, which we will have to discharge before we can implement our proposals - the Garden City is clearly moving in the right direction. We look forward to securing the necessary consents for our proposals in respect of The Wynd and Arena developments in due course.

In the meantime, of course, our proposals are impacting on the existing retail environment, so it might be helpful if I outline the present position in respect of the shop units owned by the Foundation.


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We own 137 shops, of which, currently 13 are vacant, of these 13, four are under offer to retailers in need of relocation within the town centre, reflecting our strategy to offer any vacant retail unit to tenants affected by our proposed development projects. One unit is under offer to facilitate an existing tenant from outside the redevelopment area, and we are in discussions with retailers in the redevelopment areas regarding a further six of the 13 units. Finally, two of the units are on the open market for short term lets.

Even in today's retail climate, we continue to receive enquiries from would-be retail tenants which, given the position as outlined above, we are unable to respond to positively.

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All in all, while the retail environment remains challenging in the Garden City, we appear to be faring better than some other locations. Importantly, unlike some of them, a brighter future lies ahead for us.

STUART M KENNY

Director General

Letchworth Garden City

Heritage Foundation

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