Traders have welcomed news that Fleet’s flagship shopping centre has finally been sold, saying the deal will spell good news for the town.

The News & Mail announced that Hart Shopping Centre was up for sale at £28 million in October last year .

Shopping centre management has refused to reveal who the new owners are or how much they have paid for the centre but is delighted with the sale.

Officially opened in 1991 by HRH the Duchess of York, the building has had a number of owners over the years.

The owner selling the centre is Belfast-based William Ewart Properties.

“The centre management team are extremely pleased to announce the sale of the shopping centre,” said centre assistant Liza Thornton.

“We are all extremely excited and positive with regards to the future of Hart shopping and look forward to the forthcoming changes brought on by investment in the centre.”

Fleet Business Partnership chairman Kevin Whibley said it was ‘fantastic news’ to have it finally confirmed that the centre has been sold to a new investor.

“I understand at this stage that the details of the new investor are being kept under wraps but it would appear from heightened activity around the centre that the new buyer means business,” he added.

“Fleet is an affluent town with a growing population that would like to use its shops more, and this means there is an excellent ready market for companies coming in.

“What has been lacking is landlord investment and it is our hope that it is that investment we can look forward to.

“The grapevine is rife with rumours and it would appear that a number of retailers within the centre would like to expand their operations and new companies are looking at coming in.”

It is believed, but not confirmed by the centre, that a new company has been created to buy the complex.

Mr Whibley said one problem facing the centre is it cannot re-let the units of national chains that have closed and which are either still paying rent or are in receivership.

“It is uncertain how these situations will be dealt with but this will be a major key to the centre’s revitalisation,” he added.

Mr Whibley said another area of concern for anyone looking at the centre is the large, empty former Woolworths unit.

“I would hope an incoming investor has interested parties in this unit as a whole or with the potential to split the unit up,” he added.

“But whatever plans are afoot, this can only spell good news.

“While we have to wait to hear what the plans are, I believe that it can only help to get people talking and thinking about the centre in the way they did 25 years ago when it was being built.

“We looked then at the future and what a new centre would bring to the town.

“It was all positive and new, let’s start thinking like that again and see this as a new beginning.”