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Shops work on schedule

WORK on the long-awaited redevelopment of Farnborough town centre is on target and should be completed by the summer.

It is hoped that the £6million project to build two new shopping complexes will bring more shoppers to the town to boost flagging trade.

Construction on the Mead and Queensgate shopping centres started last year and both projects are running to time according to developer Key Property Investments.

The opening of the Mead centre is planned for August. Queensgate will follow in September.

Since KPI bought the town centre in 1998 traders have complained about the time taken in getting the project off the ground.

But this week Simon Rutter of KPI said things were definitely moving in the right direction now.

“We have turned the corner,” he said. “Now there is light at the end of the tunnel. We are going to have modern, interesting developments.”

He said both buildings had generated a lot of interest from retailers.

“All four units in Queensgate are committed and we have two new retailers and four existing tenants moving into the Mead.”

The new Queensgate building will provide 24 flats upstairs and four business units downstairs.

The Mead will house eight shops, including a 12,500 sq ft store for JJB Sports.

Mr Rutter accepted that a few independent retailers had moved out of the town but said the majority were being relocated.

“We have always said existing tenants affected by the development would get preferential treatment,” he added.

Despite the optimism many traders in Kingsmead are still pessimistic about the town’s future.

Many still argue that the delay and building work is hampering business.

Florist Liz Bryant, of Blooms, said she was struggling.

“People are not coming to Farnborough — there’s nothing to bring them here. We are fortunate to get a lot of work by telephone and fax. If we relied on passing trade we would have left years ago.”

She said a lot of other shops around had shut up and left.

Julie Hone, of Hinds, said business was quieter than last year.

“A lot of shops have shut. They are boarded up because people are going elsewhere rather than coming here. We need more interesting shops and entertainment for the youngsters.”

Debenhams manager Kathyrn Ford admitted the store was doing promotions to encourage more customers in.

“It’s quiet. Things can be improved. Hopefully once it’s finished it will pick up. As a whole though the company is doing well and we are optimistic for this year.”

Raj Sidhana is the director of First Home Choice. He said sales were down across the country.

“It’s not just Farnborough. We have shops in London and they are quieter too. It’s all part of a general trend.”

Outline plans to build a Sainsbury’s superstore, leisure facilities, offices and homes on the northern side of Queensmead were approved by the Government Office for the South-East in February.

Mr Rutter said planning applications for the £50m scheme were due to be submitted.

He said he hoped building would commence early next year.

“It will be massive. It’s going to be 250,000 sq ft and will house 96 retail units.”


Charlotte Neal
Chief Reporter (Aldershot)
Joshua Smith
Farnborough Reporter
Jon Couch
Sport Editor
Stephen Lloyd
Fleet & Yateley Reporter
Ros Collins
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