A civic group has warned a lack of progress at The Galleries is in danger of ‘killing’ Aldershot town centre - for good.
Aldershot Civic Society (ACS) this week issued a challenge to Galleries owners Threadneedle to shape up, or ship out.
The Galleries was a flagship development during the late-1990s, but just a few years later, retailers began to flee en masse.
In 2007, it was reported Threadneedle was working on a masterplan to revitalise the centre, but its subsequent lack of action was criticised by the public and councillors alike.
Come 2012, the centre’s future was no clearer, and consultancy Henry Boot was appointed to oversee a masterplan process.
However, its services were dispensed with in 2014, amid rumours that Threadneedle was seeking to put some of the centre to residential use rather than retail use.
After another year’s inactivity, chairman of the civic society Justin Coll, said he and fellow members had had enough of Threadneedle’s ‘willful obstinence’.
“It’s had a devastating effect on the town,” said Mr Coll. “The Galleries is a main entrance to the town’s shopping areas. It has to be put to better use.
“We’ve all been duped for years by all the banners, all the ‘for sale’ or ‘for refurbishment’ signs - a quick Google search shows absolutely no evidence of the building ever having been marketed.”
The Galleries is thought to be a crucial asset within Rushmoor Borough Council‘s (RBC) own work to regenerate Aldershot town centre, and it was one of the highest priorities among those who attended council workshops last month.
David Phillips, Aldershot town centre manager, said the council was in ‘regular contact’ with Threadneedle, and was confident the group was well advanced with its development plans, which he added were expected to be made public soon.
Mr Coll, however, said that he felt the council had not been tough enough.
“They need to start throwing phrases like ‘compulsory purchase order’ around,” he said. “It is absolutely killing shopping in Aldershot at the moment.”
A spokesman for Threadneedle said the group recognised the ‘high level of local interest’ in The Galleries, and stressed it remained ‘fully committed’ to delivering a solution for the site.
“Major urban redevelopment on this scale always presents challenges and our focus in recent months has been on developing options that present the best opportunity for The Galleries and Aldershot town centre as a whole,” he said.
“As part of this approach, we have been working closely with Rushmoor Borough Council to ensure a scheme – which could include a combination of residential, cultural and retail uses – is consistent with their vision for the town centre.
“Discussions remain positive and further information on the revised proposals for the site will be made available in due course.”