'Disappointment' over plans for empty TJ Hughes building
PUBLISHED: 12:00 07 September 2017
Plans to develop the long-vacant TJ Hughes building for shops and flats could 'seal the end' of Weston High Street, according to business bosses.
Plans have been submitted to North Somerset Council by Dove Properties to convert the former department store, which has sat empty for six years, into three ground-floor retail units and 40 apartments for private and student use on the floors above.
And while the prospect of new retailers on Weston High Street has excited shoppers, not all are convinced the plans benefit the town centre.
Central ward councillor Richard Nightingale is pleased progress is ‘finally’ evident at the TJ Hughes site, but is ‘disappointed’ with some elements of the plans.
He told the Mercury: “In recent months Weston has seen a huge upturn in investment from private enterprise.
“There is now a real positivity about our town’s future and Weston has become a popular place to invest, which will create jobs and regenerate whole areas.
“I very much welcome that the owners of TJ Hughes are finally beginning their development plans, after many years, and I am pleased to see that the overall plan is to bring this prime site back into use, something which I have spoken to them about many times.
“However, I am disappointed in the very small amount of retail space retained and the mix of student and private residential accommodation, which has historically caused issues in other developments.
“We need a scheme from Dove Properties that benefits the town, its residents and visitors, which is also long-lasting and will guarantee the building’s future life and not see it fall back into disuse.
“In my view it is important that developers show that this is the case, before any go-ahead is given.”
Town centre business owners in the proximity of the building have also raised concerns over the proposals; with one boss saying a predominantly residential conversion would ‘inevitably seal the end of our High Street’.
They called on the council to reject the plans, adding the three units pencilled in for retail could become restaurants, adding to an already ‘oversaturated’ market – and warning the development could exacerbate Weston’s parking woes.