RETAIL giant Next is to move into Burnley’s empty T.J. Hughes store, signalling a bold statement of intent for the town centre’s future.
The nationwide chain, which currently has an outlet in the Charter Walk shopping centre, is hoping to be open in the much bigger unit in Curzon Street by Christmas.
But in a less positive development, shoppers are still waiting for the proposed redevelopment of Charter Walk’s Market Square.
Owners Addington Capital confirmed that delays in negotiations with the shops involved has meant that work, originally due to start in May, has still not begun.
The news on Next will be welcomed by shoppers, though, who have seen Burnley town centre lose a number of established high street names in the last few years as the economy has taken a downturn.
T.J. Hughes was just such a victim when it closed last August with the loss of 44 jobs. Other shops to go as part of a wider national high street downturn include Woolworths, Mothercare, Bon Marche, Peacocks, HMV and Currys.
But at the latest Burnley and District Chamber of Trade meeting, traders insisted Burnley town centre was holding its own, as recent research suggests.
Next would not confirm how many new jobs would be created by the move and what form the store would take, but promised to release more information nearer to the time.
Meanwhile, the Chamber of Trade was informed of delays in the planned re-development of the Market Square area of Charter Walk, by manager Chris Gribben.
As reported in the Express, new owners Addington Capital were set to start work in May on transforming the centre by removing the balcony and cafe in time for Christmas, but work has still to start.
Mr Gribben said: “The edges are still being put around the jigsaw in the Market Square. I suspect the hold-up is due to negotiations with stores that are planning to relocate elsewhere in the centre.
“My one worry is that if it doesn’t start soon it will not be done in time for Christmas. I know they have sourced some building materials as a trial but there is still some shuffling to be done.”
Options being explored in negotiations are for W.H. Smith to move to the empty Peacocks unit while River Island may be extended. However, Addington Capital would not comment on the negotiations at this stage.
Under the proposed £3m. revamp, the Market Square will be completely changed with the first floor balcony and staircases outside River Island, W.H. Smith, Superdrug and Ryman’s removed and the existing shops replaced by three new double height units.
In the square itself the landscaping will be improved and the circular cafe building demolished and replaced with a new glazed pod style cafe and kiosk with outside seating.