Pub chain in talks over Arcade spotBy Stephanie Cockroft
May 28, 2012
A PUB giant is in talks with an Aldershot shopping centre about opening its first watering hole in the town.
JD Wetherspoon is negotiating with the owners of the Arcade about opening one of its 800 national pubs in the town centre.
Discussions are in the early stages. The company has not yet submitted any planning application to Rushmoor Borough Council.
The news follows a petition launched by Arcade shop owners, who say they are being pushed out by developers.
At the start of the year, traders with a five-year lease in the Arcade were given formal notice to leave by August – and not told why.
They claim Dunedin Properties Ltd, the London-based firm which owns the Arcade, will leave the centre as a ‘white elephant’.
Reza Asjadi, who has run his Aladdins Cave shop from the Arcade for six years, asked the developer to allow outgoing businesses more time.
But he says he was told it was not possible.
Mr Asjadi said: “Dunedin has been not co-operative at any time. They have no interest in helping Aldershot and they are throwing us out to make money. We have now been forced to sell four van loads – more than 5,000 pieces – of our garments at a fraction of their cost price to a buyer in London, because we have nowhere to go and needed to get rid of it.”
Discussions between the developers and JD Wetherspoon are the furthest down the line of any company which has expressed an interest in the Arcade.
A less firm possibility is Poundland, which has also shown an interest.
There is no JD Wetherspoon in the town, although the chain has premises in Farnborough, Camberley and Fleet.
Under the vague timescale mooted, the pub would apply for planning permission in June.
The site would have to be levelled at the back, allowing the pub to open at Easter, if the correct licence is approved.
Rushmoor Borough Council had a meeting with the developers last week, but has little power over what happens to the arcade.
The council’s planning committee will have to determine the application, if and when it comes to the committee.
David Phillips, town centre manager, said the company had made it ‘very clear’ they were in the town as property developers.
He added: “But until they have had all their meetings and identified what is going to happen, it is difficult for us to comment. It is also difficult to liaise with traders when we are not sure what is going on. We will just see how things progress.”
Despite the traders’ concerns, many in the town see the chain’s possible investment as a boost for the town’s economy.
Town centre resident Sonya Freedman said: “As much as I would like to support smaller businesses, the Arcade is not great at the moment and at least a Wetherspoon’s would fill it.”
And David Layton, from Manor Park, said: “Although I don’t think we necessarily need another pub, we don’t have a Wetherspoon’s in the town and so it would be good to have something different.”
Gordon Kelly, from Dundedin Properties Ltd, and a spokesman for JD Wetherspoon said they could not comment at this stage.