AS plans progress on The Woolmead shopping precinct in East Street, businesses are keeping their heads held high, following an eviction notice to clear out by November 7.
Although the closure of the units comes at no surprise to the businesses trading there – the majority of which are independents – it doesn’t mean that the reality hurts any the less.
Earlier this year, Surrey-based property investors The Berkeley Group, took over from long-term owners, Friends Life Ltd.
It was a decision which sparked concern throughout town due to the popularity of Friends Life’s granted plans to replace the current building with a mixture of restaurants, shops and up to 96 flats.
However, new plans to demolish the outdated structures and replace it with a modern mixed-use development, has been put forward by The Berkeley Group, with developers noting that the group’s plans will be “substantially along the lines of what is already proposed”.
The Woolmead is home to an array of unique and quirky shops including The DVD Man, Models Of Distinction, East St Cycles, Huxleys, The Phone Shop, Hazy Trails and Brooks-Campbell Dental Lab – these shops could be a thing of the past in Farnham following their winter eviction.
One shop promising to remain local is long-established bridal shop, Confetti & Lace, which has proudly provided its service for more than three decades.
Sadly the same can’t be said for Brooks-Campbell Dental Lab, situated at 21 The Woolmead and run jointly by Stephen Harris and Iain Pitchforth.
“It’s going really well, we were really chuffed. It was big investment for us to move here. We weren’t expecting to only be in here for eight-months and then get a six-month notice letter,” said Stephen.
“It’s unlikely that we will be able to relocate in Farnham because of the rental prices. I’m not saying the clients won’t follow us but we won’t get the high value business that we have been getting.
“It is just a bit of a sad tale of woe. But on the up-side you know, we’ll go on and find a better place – it’s just that Farnham will be short of a dental lab.
“It’s a bit disappointing – we feel like we’ve been hoodwinked for eight-months to be honest. But you know that’s what happens and we keep on going. Keep your head down, do the work and just keep going.”
Managing director of Berkeley Homes Southern, Chris Gilbert, confirmed that he is firmly committed to developing the site and expects to be pursuing the planning application later this year subject to consultation feedback. Work is expected to start on the development in 2018.
Kartar Signh of The Phone Shop, which has been in Farnham for two-and-a-half-years, was saddened by the news but said that it did not come as a shock. As of yet the shop has been unsuccessful in finding a suitable place for a similar price within town.
Michael Luckman who owns The DVD Man, is also disappointed to be flying the nest, he said: “I was a little bit shocked about getting it, I knew it was coming but I expected to be here until after Christmas at least.
“I don’t think I’ll be able to find a shop in Farnham to go to. There’s one across the road but it needs quite a lot of work and they want about £22,000 for it.
“When you look at the history of this place there has been a lot of empty shops, then all of a sudden they are filled and then emptied again.
“This part isn’t as nice, look at the derelict part over there, why couldn’t they leave The Marlborough Head open for another year or so?
“This will be up-and-running before that gets ever looked at. I mean how long has that theatre across the road been shut?
“Let’s face it the developers will always own the freehold on it, so anything here will be on a lease.”