PLANS for the £30million redevelopment of Town Square have been met with mixed reviews.
Last November it was revealed work to transform the run down area was finally set to get under way after property development and investment company UK & European bought the lease.
They planned to build a shopping and leisure complex at the site and completely re-brand under the new name of ‘Bell Yard’ in homage to a 14th century bell, which once rang in Stratford, and will return as part of the new development.
And on Friday (June 5) residents and businesses were given the chance to make their thoughts known at a public exhibition.
Ex-Stratfordian, David Savage, said he was worried about the plans and what it could mean for the town.
He told The Observer: “There will be a completely different feel to Stratford after this development is completed. We have already seen many new shops and restaurants come and go in this area because they simply don’t get supported.
“The modernisation of shopping areas might work in other places but who knows if it will work for Stratford. Will it just mean more empty buildings like we have now?”
The plans are set to include many retail outlets, restaurants, public open spaces and a multiplex cinema.
But Richard Ware, chairman of Men’s Shed, an organisation that supports men’s health charities, runs a community programme for older men and is currently housed inside the Town Square, fears the new development could force the group out.
He said: “If this new development plans to completely re-brand the area into a new modern leisure complex, what will this mean for us?
“I hope the organisation behind the build will take smaller businesses and organisations like us into account when considering Stratford’s future.”
Commenting on the plans on the Stratford Observer’s Facebook page, a user called Will wrote: “Waste of money. The last time they did it, no-one could afford to open a shop there and it remained dead.
“Remember BHS? History is about to repeat itself. Until you make it cheap enough that independent stores can actually afford the rent, you’ll see the same thing again and again.”
But it seems not everyone is against the plans.
Niki81 wrote: “The plans look great for an area in desperate need of regeneration. I would say the council are confident of attracting plenty of retailers and that is why the plans are moving forward.”
UK & European development leader John Stacey said: “If we look at the needs of the young, old and everyone in between, we feel we can make this area great.
“We have already made changes to our original plans after hearing from the public and that’s exactly why we held this exhibition – to get a feel from the public about how we can improve things.”
If the development continues as scheduled, construction is due to be completed towards the end of 2016 with Bell Yard opening to the public in mid-2017.