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Shoppers fear out-of-town complex will signal end for town centre
3:02pm Tuesday 13th November 2012 in News
A CONTROVERSIAL out-of-town retail park will welcome its first customers today (November 14). Tom Powton spoke to shoppers in Bishop Auckland to see if they think it will be the end for the town centre.
IT was once a bustling market town packed full of shoppers visiting a mix of independent shops and high street chains.
But with McDonalds becoming the latest in a string of businesses to close its doors in recent times, the town centre has deteriorated into a shadow of its former self.
People who still visit the many shops that are left believe changes need to be made to save Bishop Auckland from becoming a ghost town.
Rose Griffiths, 47, of Bishop Auckland, said: “Bishop is not going to be Bishop any more. It’s just going to be pubs. I think they need to make the rents cheaper for the shops.
“We all used to come to the market place and it used to be chocker. Now it’s just going to be a ghost town.”
The Bishop Auckland Shopping Park, in St Helen Auckland, received permission to begin phase one of the development last December.
Boots, Brantano and Pets At Home will welcome their first customers today (November 14), ahead of Costa Coffee later this month and Marks & Spencer and Next in January.
Work on four more units will begin next year after phase two was approved last week by Durham County Council’s planning committee.
Although shoppers were unanimous in their opinion that the new retail park will have a negative effect on the town centre not all believed it was a bad idea.
Peter Corbridge, 67, of Newton Aycliffe said: “I think it’s a really good idea. The high street is dead on its feet.
“Another problem (with the high street) is actually delivering goods into these places. With lots of parking it will be easier.”
“I like high street shopping but transport wise it will be harder,” said Jessica Peacock, 18, of Willington. “I do work up there though, so I will probably pop in. I hope it won’t die off because it’s a good high street.”
Steve Haswell, 55, of Newcastle, who comes to Bishop Auckland with his son, Bryn, who busks in the town centre, said: “We come here fairly regularly and we think it is a lovely place, it’s a shame because it could be a nice little tourist town.”
Multi-million pound plans to refurbish Auckland Castle are set to take place over the next few years and Bishop Auckland Town Council has announced plans to rejuvenate the town’s market.
Supporters of the shopping complex at St Helen Auckland believe it will attract more visitors to the area and subsequently give the town centre a boost.