Business owners question Gravesend town centre future
PUBLISHED: 10:04 26 May 2011
»Independent business owners in a shopping centre littered with empty units have warned the town will die unless large chain stores are brought in and regeneration is encouraged.
Roy Pomphrett, who owns both The Warehouse and Hollies Fashions in the St George’s Centre, Gravesend, believes the key is redevelopment of the Heritage Quarter, rejected by a council planning committee last year due to public opposition to plans which many claimed did not complete the town’s heritage.
He says the appeal due to be heard in September must be secured to rejuvenate the town.
Mr Pomphrett said: “If it doesn’t happen Gravesend will die it is dying anyway. There are no serious shoppers here, it has become just a pound shop town and that is a fact.
“I have been here 22 years and I have seen it happen. This used to be the best shopping centre in north Kent.”
Chris Parry, who runs a jewellery and gift store in St George’s believes the internet is killing high street shops and only a big name chain can rescue Gravesend.
He said. “Gravesend has no massive store even the main chains such as Debenhams and Marks & Spencers are actually quite small units. No one is going to set up a flagship store here the way things are.”
Mark Felstead, manager of Timpson shoe repair, said diversifying was the answer, adding: “We have had to offer photography to bring in more trade. The whole town needs to diversify. It is just full of phone shops and hairdressers, everything else is to few and far between.”
St George’s Centre has a number of empty units, with Eastern Vibes holding a closing down sale, For Silver jewellery shop closing last month and Framecraft, Klick Photographs, Right Price, a unit between Thomson and Beaumont Beds and Beds Direct all now empty, though Beds Direct is set to become a second pound shop in the centre.
Nicky Blanchard, centre manager denied the St George’s was having problems and said many units were set to be taken over.
She said: “We are actually very positive about the centre’s current performance and have a number of units under offer to new tenants,” adding three new tenants were expected to open stores in the next fortnight.