Shopping centre regenerations have become relatively commonplace in the UK since the end of the recession, with owners recognising a need to adapt to new consumer trends as a means of lifting footfall levels. However, while many involve significant levels of investment, few are as ambitious as the proposals for the Bircherley Green Shopping Centre in Hertford.
Centre owner Cordea Savills has pledged to invest £40 million into the redevelopment project, which would see much of the current centre demolished as a means of increasing retail unit sizes, creating additional parking spaces and doubling the size of the current anchor Waitrose supermarket.
In addition, 124 apartments would be created in order to increase the city’s housing stock, and a new riverside walkway would become the latest addition to a range of public space investment within the town centre.
The plans have so far had a mixed reaction, with some local traders concerned that the necessary moving of the nearby Bircherley Street bus terminal to upgraded facilities on Fore Street could negatively impact their trading.
“It’s a big worry,” Bagelettes coffee shop manager Jacky Hunt told the Hertfordshire Mercury.
“This shop has been here for nearly 16 years and people like us are going to struggle – if it goes ahead it may improve the city centre, but that’s not guaranteed.”
Although no retailers or restaurant brands have, as yet, been confirmed to have registered an interest in taking up space within the new-look Bircherley Green shopping centre, it is believed that this redevelopment could be necessary in order to prevent anchor Waitrose from leaving the town centre.
The retailer is reportedly looking to open a new store at the Van Hage garden centre in nearby Great Amwell; something which development partner Wrenbridge believes could prove “damaging” to Hertford.
Wrenbridge director John McHale adds that the plans, if approved, could prove beneficial to local consumers and retailers alike.
He says; “Our aspiration is to create a new sense of place at Bircherley Green and to help reinforce the strength of the town centre.
“We’re focusing on bringing additional footfall and trade to Bircherley Green through a larger, modern anchor food store and elegant shopping boulevards finished with quality materials which complement Hertford’s unique character.
“This is also a fantastic opportunity to reconnect Hertford’s historic town centre with the riverside and we hope local residents and businesses will share our enthusiasm about the plans.”
Along with the new riverside pedestrian area, Wrenbridge intends to create a new Bircherley Square which would serve as a public focal point and link from the shopping centre to the riverside. This would lie next to the new car park, which will be transformed from the current multi-storey format to a surface level facility with basement parking.
A public consultation will be held at the end of this month to allow local residents and traders to voice their opinions and suggest alterations to the current plans.
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