What is happening with the former Debenhams and BHS stores in Preston?
A leading city councillor has called on landlords and property owners to explore new ways of "breathing life into empty shops".
Coun David Borrow, cabinet member for planning and regulation at Preston City Council was responding to queries about the future of the shut up Debenhams site in the Fishergate Centre and the empty former BHS building on Fishergate.
The BHS building has been closed for several years and now the Debenhams property on a flagship site by the city's railway station is also lying empty.
The prospect of creating flats to bring more residents into the city centre has been suggested as one way to regenerate town and city centres hit by changing shopping habits and more recently, the pandemic lock-down.
Former city mayor Coun Borrow said: “The Council is helping to stimulate the recovery of the high street post pandemic, with the City Living Strategy, the City Investment Plan and our successful Towns Fund bid amongst a number of ongoing initiatives encouraging investment in the city centre. But we need everyone including landlords and property owners to play their part and explore new ways of breathing life into empty shops."
He continued: "The former BHS and Debenhams sites on Fishergate are in key locations within our city centre. They are both under private ownership and could be suitable for a range of alternative uses if the owners were unable to find new retail tenants. We are in contact with the respective owners and happy to work with them in finding a successful solution for their assets that would make a positive contribution to the future of the city centre."
Mark Whittle, Preston City Centre BID Manager said the BHS and Debenhams sites may need to be split or have a change of use to attract tenants. He said: "High streets across the country are still feeling the effects of the pandemic, and the way consumers shop – our high street, like all others, must adapt and evolve to meet current and future demand. "
He continued: "The former Debenhams and BHS stores are prime sites within the city centre that could easily see uses, other than solely retail. The city centre has attracted several new businesses over recent weeks which shows a willingness to invest here, however, those sites are sizeable and it may be that they need to be split, or see a change in classification, in order for them to be let for the long term. We are aware that the owners are committed to working with interested parties to see them brought back to use."
* What would you like to see the sites used for? Send your comments to [email protected]