A deal to fill the empty former Marks and Spencer unit in Aldershot town centre is expected ‘imminently’, while several other shops have closed or are opening.
M&S closed its outlet store in the High Street in September, despite more than 11,000 people signing a petition lobbying for the retailer to stay.
The unit has been empty since, with homeless people bedding down in the doorway and rumours rife on social media about stores that could be taking it on.
Although a name has not yet been announced Aldershot town centre manager David Phillips, of Rushmoor Borough Council, revealed that the key property is currently ‘under offer’.
“We keep in regular contact with M&S and as we understand it, they have an offer that the agents have received on the property,” Mr Phillips said on Monday.
“We don’t know the identity, but we do understand that they are very close to signing with a view to opening in the autumn.”
When asked when the deal is expected to be complete, Mr Phillips said: “We think it’s imminent.”
He said it will be positive to have the unit open again, since it provides a vital walkway between Union Street and the High Street.
“The M&S site is a key unit in the town and provides good access to one side of the High Street to Union Street,” he said. “It has been a big void in the town, which both us and M&S have been keen to fill.”
Mr Phillips also said the homelessness and associated issues in Aldershot has ‘improved’ over the past fortnight.
He said: “About a month ago there was a lot of homeless people throughout the town in empty shop units.
“A number of these have been boarded up, including M&S, and shutters fitted, and work to engage with these homeless people [has been underway].”
After walking down the High Street on Monday, Mr Phillips said there aren’t any homeless people congregating at the former M&S site at the moment.
Over the past month, there have been many changes to shops in Union Street, with the closure of YMCA (28 Union Street) and signs up in the windows of First Home Choice (52 Union Street) saying it too is closing down.
The Salvation Army is returning to the town (turn to page 11) and the council said a tenant is lined up for the former Romans unit (41 Union Street) but the name is not confirmed.
M&S declined to comment but said an announcement will be made ‘in due course’.