South Oxhey Initiative: uncertainty over plans causing 'unease' among shopkeepers (From Watford Observer)
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South Oxhey Initiative: uncertainty over plans causing 'unease' among shopkeepers
Shopkeepers said the speculation and growing "uncertainty" over plans to redevelop the centre of South Oxhey have left a feeling of unease in the precinct.
The latest designs outlining Three Rivers’ proposals to regenerate the area were released as part of the public consultation last month.
Plans showed the district council’s intention to build between 450 and 500 new homes during the first phase of the regeneration project.
With no developer backing the South Oxhey Initiative, the council intends to submit a planning application in the hope that one will come on board after permission has been granted.
This has left a feeling of unease amongst shop owners in the South Oxhey centre, who say they feel unsure where they stand since developers Thrive Homes and Catalyst pulled their support for the scheme.
Angela Finn, owner of Fairfield Estate Agents, has been in her current offices for 18 years.
She said: "Who knows what’s going to happen? The uncertainty is getting to a lot of shop keepers. Many of us are going to have to go, we know that much, and we don’t know what the rents are going to be or how big the premises will be.
"We’ve heard that about 50 per cent of the retail space will go to the supermarket. I know it’ll be good in the long run, you can’t object to progress.
"You look at these buildings and they’ve had their day, but I do think that the council could have had a more active involvement with the shop keepers because, at the moment, we don’t know what’s going to happen."
Approximately half of the shops will be kept open while the north side of the precinct is developed, then the car park, before the final regeneration phase of the south precinct takes place.
Proposals also designated a large proportion of the retail space to be part of a supermarket.
Terry Taylor has been running his shop, Taylor Convenience Store, for 32 years - making him the longest-serving shopkeeper in the precinct.
Mr Taylor said: "Hopefully the plans will be passed and they can get a developer onboard. Somehow I don’t think we will be allowed to be here.
"Perhaps it is time to go. It’ll be nice to have a variety of shops here because South Oxhey needs it, it’ll make a big difference to the area, but it would be good to know exactly where we stand and what the new rents are going to be.
"We’re a family business and at the moment we don’t know whether we’re staying or going."
Veronica Bentham, owner of Poppy’s Hair Design Salon, is concerned about her retirement, as she does not know what the future holds for her business, which has been at its current location for 22 years.
She said: "I’m 65 this year and I can’t plan my retirement. I can’t sell my shop, I can’t do anything. I have just got to carry on and nothing has been explained.
"When I do go to the meetings the council don’t seem to have any idea. I have been here 22 years and nothing has been done to the shops the back of the shops are absolutely disgusting. I do think it needs pulling down but all this speculation has been terrible."
Three Rivers is looking to submit a planning application for the initiative in June.
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