Poundland formally applies for Hitchin Woolies site

THE owners of Poundland have ended months of speculation by putting in a planning application for half of the former Hitchin Woolworths store.

The discount chain was rumoured to be a possible candidate to occupy part of the building after drawings by the applicant for the other half of the store, Peacocks, indicated this was the case.

But Poundland would not confirm that it was looking at opening a store in the town and had not submitted an application to North Herts District Council (NHDC) to do so.

It has now applied for full planning permission, with a target date for a decision to be made set for next month. It means that the store could be looking at opening before Christmas, if approval is given.

A spokesman for NHDC said: “The council received two planning applications from Poundland to occupy part of the old Woolworths site in Hitchin.

“One application relates to alterations to the shop front and another that relates to new signage. These applications are currently undergoing a consultation period and will be determined in due course.”

Meanwhile, Peacocks is scheduled to open its doors next weekend after being granted permission by NHDC in May. A spokesman for the company could not confirm how many jobs would be created, but added that it was currently recruiting staff.

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The news that the entire building could be occupied by the end of the year seems to have been welcomed.

Resident Andy Leach contacted The Comet on Facebook and said: “It’s excellent news and will create jobs. No doubt there will be the usual snobs saying it will lower the tone, but the recession does not hit them and any shop is better than an empty building.”

The news comes after a claim that millions of pounds have been committed to trade in Hitchin town centre this year alone, due to a surge in new stores and refurbishing and relocating existing ones.

Although only just over halfway through the year, more than �10m has been generated as a result of these factors, despite the tough economic climate.

The town, which has a six per cent vacancy rate compared to the 15 per cent national average, has seen a number of stores relocating and refurbishing premises, including Waitrose, Wilkinson, Monsoon, Kenmore Interiors and Colanders Cookware.

New trade this year has included the opening of Asda in Queen Street. Peacocks and Poundland at the former High Street Woolworths store are also on the way, and a new restaurant will open this autumn where the former Remix nightclub was.

Town centre manager Keith Hoskins said: “We recognised long ago that a successful town offers so much more than sterile shopping malls – character, history, street activity, events and festivals – a pleasant and welcoming environment that encourages visitors and creates better trading conditions.

“We are not complacent and recognise the fragile state of the economy, but businesses working together with the local authorities and our committed community organisations serve our town well.”

Chairman of Hitchin Initiative Brent Smith added: “This is a tremendous vote of confidence in our town and reflects the hard work of our town centre partnership over the last 16 years.”