Many readers have suggested that the intu Watford Debenhams store which has permanently closed should revert back to a market.

The department store said earlier this month that it failed to agree new terms of rent with its landlord intu at three of its sites, including Watford.

This led to Debenhams taking the decision to close the Watford shop - despite it only opening less than two years ago as part of the £180 million intu extension.

Mayor of Watford Peter Taylor said that while the news of Debenhams closure was sad, Watford has a “thriving town centre” and many businesses are still choosing to invest into the town.

Now readers of the Watford Observer have shared their suggestions on what they would like to see replace the empty site.

While various ideas were brought up, the idea that gained most support was to revert the Debenhams store into a market.

In 2014, shops and Watford Market located in Charter Place, were moved out to make way for the extension at intu Watford.

Watford Observer:

Charter Place before it was demolished

The market now sits further up the High Street but it is not popular as it could be with shoppers.

'Bring back the market'

Many readers shared a sense of nostalgia as they called for a new indoor market inside the empty site.

Bobbie Wallis, commented that if a market were to open, there should be “a good variety of stalls” ranging from fruit and veg, fresh meat and fish, and a home bakery.

He said: “The old market was so popular, people came from afar, and (it was) a meeting place to have coffee and meet friends!”

Other readers have suggested that by introducing a market within intu, it would give Watford a unique selling point for smaller businesses that would otherwise not have an opportunity to open at intu.

Richard Massara said: “Retail is changing, big stores need to be innovative to succeed.

“But make it into a bazaar and a market and it may give Watford the unique thing it’s been missing.

“The ‘new’ market simply doesn’t work where it is, but make the Debenhams back into both a market part time – perhaps the basement area – and lots of smaller shops and stalls, which otherwise wouldn’t have had a chance in intu.”

Thelma Fas called the removal of the market a “total disgrace” as she reaffirmed the call for a new market.

She said: “Bring back the market, make it like the markets in Europe. It was a total disgrace what was done to the traders and the community that used it.

“I knew people that used to use the market from inner London.”

Giovanni De Maria explained that a new market would be important as “the current one is not very good”.

He suggested that with a new indoor market, it could move some of the current outdoor stalls out of the rain and introduce a variety of new stalls.

One commenter, Andy, however opposed the idea as he said it was “awful” and “we don’t want to go back in time”. Alternatively, he suggested seeing TK Maxx or The Range - although TK Maxx is already building a new store in Century Park.

Diana Pirjoleanu also described the previous market as “awful”, however it seems that those opposing a market are in the minority.

‘Something fun and recreational’

intu Watford already has a range of activities outside of shopping, including Hollywood Bowl, Cineworld and climbing wall Rock Up.

But there were a variety of requests for further activities at the shopping centre.

Kathelynn Sturgeon explained that a small water park at the Debenhams spot would bring something different to the centre.

She said: “When done, get dressed, have something to eat and then watch a movie afterwards.”

Other readers said that it be good to revitalise the spot as “something fun and recreational” with suggestions ranging from go-karting, an indoor skatepark, a trampoline park, a large arcade or an art gallery and music venue.

Many commenters pointed out the need for a soft play area to keep children occupied while families visit the centre.

Nelly Dolphin was among those asking for a play area, as she said: “There are plenty of shops in Watford, more expensive ones which people can’t afford.

“Do something for the kids – a soft play area which isn’t too expensive or something.”

How about another department store?

With Debenhams gone, that leaves a void in the centre for another department store.

Of course, there is still John Lewis at intu, but there were many suggestions for a new department store like House of Fraser or Fenwick.

Luisella Linoso was among those in support for a House of Fraser but had another alternative.

She said: “House of Fraser could be a good replacement.

“I know we have a lot of restaurants, but I think there are too many burger and pizza places. A good Spanish or a good Greek restaurant would be nice just to have a different choice, but above all a loch & fine, a good steak house would really raise the level of the town.”

Matalan, The Range, TK Maxx and Home Bargains were also repeatedly asked for by our readers.