Stevenage given boost with major store investment

PLANS to combine three retail units in Stevenage and move a well-known high street chain into the building shows a confidence in the town centre . Planning permission has been granted to turn three units in The Forum into one 12,000sq ft retail space for

PLANS to combine three retail units in Stevenage and move a well-known high street chain into the building "shows a confidence in the town centre".

Planning permission has been granted to turn three units in The Forum into one 12,000sq ft retail space for Next.

The clothing store will relocate from its current smaller store in Stevenage's Queensway.

The three units were previously occupied by the Goodwill Trust which closed three years ago, The Entertainer which had its lease end in January, and Dolland and Atchinson which is owned by Boots Opticians, which has an existing store in the town centre.


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Tracey Parry, Stevenage town centre manager, said: "We are absolutely delighted because, when we undertake various surveys, quite often feedback from the public is that we want a bigger Next.

"The fact we are going to have it in an important anchor location will be a good thing for other shops in that area.

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"I think it shows a confidence in the town centre.

"At times it's easy to knock Stevenage but I think we mustn't lose sight of the fact it is a commercially viable town centre, and we have weathered a big economic downturn reasonably well."

CBRE Investors, which manages The Forum, secured the planning permission to convert the three units, and work on site is already underway.

Neil Cuttell, regeneration manager at Stevenage Borough Council, said: "Maintaining retailers in the town centre is important and this will encourage other retailers to come to the town."

The new Next store is expected to open in September.

Asked about the Queensway unit Next will leave vacant, Ms Parry said: "I don't think you can ever say something is going to be easy to shift, because of the current economic climate, but it's in a prime location and is a good size, so we are reasonably confident it won't stay empty for too long.

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