THE OPENING of Farnham’s long-awaited Brightwells Yard regeneration scheme has yet again been kicked back – with the Herald understanding workforce and material shortages are chiefly to blame.
Waverley Borough Council’s portfolio holder for Brightwells, Cllr Andy MacLeod told councillors the opening of the £130 million mixed-use development had been postponed until at least November.
And finally responding to the Herald’s questions after a six-month communications blackout, developer Crest Nicholson confirmed the delay – but added it was “extremely confident the centre will be open later this year”.
To date, contracts have been signed on just two of Brightwells’ 24 retail units (M&S Food and Seasalt), with Reel Cinema the only other confirmed commercial partner.
Despite this, Crest said its leasing campaign is “progressing exceptionally well” – with “more than two-thirds of the floor space either let, in legal or at heads-of-terms stage”.
Brightwells’ total retail floor space adds up to just less than 10,000 square metres – meaning tenants are lined up for around 6,500sq m of retail space, leaving around 3,200sq m still available. M&S Food accounts for almost 2,000sq m of the ‘taken’ floor space, and Seasalt around 260sq m.
There are, however, fears that in its desperation to fill the vacant units, Crest is looking to tempt existing retailers in Farnham with lucrative discounts to abandon their town premises for Brightwells Yard.
Responding, Crest said “all prospective tenants were offered market rent”. But town traders have told the Herald Crest is still offering carrots, including a two-year rent-free period, to decamp to the new development.
The Herald also understands at least two existing town traders have taken up these offers and are close to relocating to Brightwells.
Crest has vowed to release the names of new occupiers “as soon as leases are signed”, while adding a number of Brightwells’ retail units “will soon be available for fit-out” – albeit within months, not weeks.
It has also confirmed the A31 construction access bridge is now not scheduled to be removed until mid-2024 – two years later than initially planned after construction got under way in early 2019.