Traders voice fears over redevelopment
THERE are concerns that the redevelopment of a major shopping area could kill off small businesses. The possibility of rent increases and smaller shops being muscled out by national retailers once proposed changes to Hitchin s Churchgate area are finished
THERE are concerns that the redevelopment of a major shopping area could kill off small businesses.
The possibility of rent increases and smaller shops being muscled out by national retailers once proposed changes to Hitchin's Churchgate area are finished are worrying some shop owners.
Fatmi Danish, owner of The Craft House, is concerned that the amount of money being spent on the area would have a knock-on effect on rent prices, and this could force some retailers out of business.
Mr Fatmi, 45, said: "We don't know where we are at the moment.
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"If the rents go up, then not all the shop owners will be able to continue trading. This will affect the town as a whole because lots of people come to Hitchin for the market and the nearby smaller shops. If these aren't performing too well will people still come and shop here?"
Plans in principle to demolish the 1970s block and replace it with a new shopping centre got the go-ahead in November 2005.
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However, since that decision was taken there has been a lack of visible progress and while this has annoyed some, including Mr Fatmi, others are happy to wait for work to begin.
One such person is John Webb, owner of the greengrocers shop J & S Webb, in Church Walk, a row of shops which will also be redeveloped.
Mr Webb said: "For us no news is good news. We are better off that it does take as long as possible as I'm worried about the impact it will have. It is all unsettling.
"People come to Hitchin for the smaller shops and we can't afford to lose any of these but I'm worried that once it all goes through it could be the end of some of the small shops in the area."
Keith Hoskins, the town centre manager, said the key to a strong town centre is variety and that different types of shops could flourish alongside each other.
He said: "I can understand Churchgate retailers being concerned and we would expect them to be, it's been seven years of uncertainty.
"But the great joy of Hitchin is that you can go to Sun Street, Bucklersbury, The Arcade, and in each of these areas there are small units that are independent and have been doing well. It's all about having a mix of different retailers.