Residents' concern over empty Galleries centre
July 22, 2008
Residents want a meeting with the managers of the virtually empty Galleries shopping centre.
Johanna Lance, of the Aldershot Civic Society, and Rushmoor councillor Mike Roberts, a member of the town centre advisory group, have urged Threadneedle Property Investments to disclose their intentions to the public.
Residents were promised 15 months ago that a “major retailer” would fill the units intentionally vacated by The Galleries’ owners. Now just four retailers are trading in the centre.
“It is vitally important that the people of Aldershot know what is going on with The Galleries as the way it is at the moment is damaging the town,” Ms Lance said.
“It would be fantastic if we could get the owners along to a public meeting. People are in limbo as they’ve no idea what’s going on. We haven’t even a clue about what they are planning.”
Ms Lance — who is chairman of the society, established to look after the town’s interests — said the owners of The Galleries should listen to the will of Aldershot’s public.
“The situation should be explained to people,” she added.
“A meeting would be good because they have spent so much time dragging their feet. I think they should be furnished with the thoughts of the people of Aldershot.
“We have now got very few shops in The Galleries and it would be unforgivable if that situation continues.”
Cllr Roberts said he was struggling to remain positive about The Galleries.
“Things seem to be going into meltdown and there doesn’t ever seem to be any indication from Threadneedle about what is going on,” he said.
“There needs to be a meeting between the movers and shakers in Aldershot and Threadneedle to discuss what’s going on.
“We need an eyeball to eyeball talk to determine their plans and find a way forward.”
Cllr Roberts, an Aldershot Labour representative for Heron Wood, said The Galleries was becoming an embarrassment for Aldershot.
“There has to be something like some sort of openness, as the whole thing has ground to a halt,” he added.
“I know there are people in Aldershot wondering what’s going on and they need to be told.
“A meeting between them and Threadneedle might make the picture clearer, but first we need an open discussion between the town centre advisory committee, other local bodies and Threadneedle.”
Rushmoor Borough Council chief executive Andrew Lloyd said he thought that Threadneedle would be “unlikely to co-operate”
with calls for a public meeting.
“What I am keen to do is get a clearer picture for the public from Threadneedle about their current position,” he explained.
“I remain of the view through my regular conversations with Threadneedle that they are very focused on getting a good outcome for themselves and Aldershot.
“I have got great sympathy with residents who must feel that nothing is going on.
“It is of no benefit to Threadneedle to continue to have The Galleries with few shops in and I know that they are working to get an end user or end users that will benefit them and Aldershot.”
The council does not have any direct influence over Threadneedle as it has no financial stake in The Galleries.
Mr Lloyd said the empty shops might mislead residents and investors into thinking that investors did not want to plough money into Aldershot.
“We need now to gain the hearts and minds and confidence of the public through a public statement from Threadneedle,” Mr Lloyd said.
The shopping centre’s four retailers are clothes shop Pilot, food shop Julian Graves, Kitchen Kiosk and Optisave Opticians.
Threadneedle — property and asset manager on behalf of Galleries owner Zurich Assurance — was unavailable for comment.