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Letter: As Debenhams Dies, There Are Hopes of a New Life For the Building

Published on: 4 Dec, 2020
Updated on: 4 Dec, 2020

From: Zöe Franklin

Liberal Democrat for Guildford and Cranleigh on parliamentary matters

The loss of Debenhams comes as a blow to Guildford in terms of its retail draw. I visited the store regularly throughout my childhood growing up in Farnham, as I’m sure many local people then and now have done, so its loss will almost certainly cause a dent in retail visits to the town.

There is also the issue of what to do when Debenhams’ important riverside location becomes vacant. With demand for retail space decreasing it is my hope the building will be rejuvenated.

My personal view is that it would be an excellent site for a mixed-use arts, community and residential space. I know Guildford Borough Council’s Lib Dem/R4GV leadership team will be working behind the scenes to make the most of the site.

Finally, and most importantly, I know that this news will be a disappointment to the staff of Guildford’s Debenhams, if they were hoping a last-minute rescue could have kept the store open beyond it’s, previously announced, closure date of January (2021), so my thoughts are with these staff and their families at this challenging time.

Lib Dem Treasury spokesperson Christine Jardine said: “The news that Debenhams will be closing its stores is yet another blow to the UK economy. With the Arcadia Group entering administration, thousands more jobs have been potentially wiped away on Rishi Sunak’s watch.

“During the pandemic, when so many are already struggling to get by, unemployment will have a devastating impact. This government’s failure to get a grip on the virus has seen tens of thousands of livelihoods lost, and these extra job losses means thousands more families across the UK wondering how they’re going to get by.

“Our high streets now need urgent government action to safeguard their future. A first step must be for ministers to overhaul the business rates system, otherwise we will see yet more livelihoods lost in our retail sector.”

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test One Response to Letter: As Debenhams Dies, There Are Hopes of a New Life For the Building

  1. Roger Main Reply

    February 1, 2021 at 6:04 pm

    I ran the store for over 15 years. Its demise is due to the top management at board level failing to invest in the company and selling out to the “equity barons”.

    Moving on, I have seen lots of comments re the building being an arts centre/ community centre, keep the cafe open, and so on.

    This is a complex building with complex services, and a costly building to run with huge business rates to pay.

    It lends itself now to being revamped into flats, with services moved to higher levels to avoid flood damage.

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