New eatery to come to Letchworth?

YMCA in Letchworth GC

YMCA in Letchworth GC - Credit: Archant

A RETAIL unit occupied by a homeless charity could soon be turned into a restaurant or café.

A planning application has been submitted to North Herts District Council (NHDC) for the change of use of the YMCA store which has been trading for more than 15 months in Letchworth GC.

The store forms part of the Garden Square Shopping Centre on Central Approach.

A report submitted by the applicant’s agent, GVA, to NHDC says: “The proposal has attracted interest from both national and independent operators.”

The document also states that: “There is limited demand for retailer representation in the area and it is expected that without intervention this unit will soon fall vacant.”

It is not yet known if it is a restaurant chain or an independent which is interested in the site.

Robin Webb, chief executive officer of YMCA Central Herts, said: “In the event that we have to move out of this shop we would be keen to move to another unit in Letchworth town centre.

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“We tend to operate the YMCA Central Herts shop model on short-term leases, so there is always the danger of having to find new premises when the lease expires, although this causes disruption to the shop and additional costs to fit out new stores.”

A new eatery would link in with the Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation’s (LGCHF) town centre rejuvenation strategy.

In April, the Comet reported that restaurant chain, Prezzo, signed a 25-year lease for a site on the corner of Arena Parade and Eastcheap – the former Alldays shop.

And last month full planning permission was granted for the chain to occupy two floors of the building.

The application also granted permission for the Italian food chain to have pavement tables, a first floor roof garden, and seating for more than 100 diners. Work is due to begin shortly and it is scheduled to open in early 2014.

A spokesman for Praxis, the company which owns the Garden Square Shopping Centre, said: “Praxis has submitted a planning application that, if approved, will give greater flexibility of uses to the unit at 1 Central Approach, enabling it to be used as a restaurant or cafe.

“Praxis is wholly aligned with North Herts’ town centre strategy and is working closely with the Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation to create a new cultural and leisure quarter in this part of the town.”