Tuesday, 19 October 2021

Shops in village need our support, says councillor

BUSINESSES in Wargrave need the support of locals if they are to remain open, says a borough councillor.

John Halsall also says shop owners should consider what residents need in the village after another business left the area. There have previously been complaints from business owners about lack of footfall in Wargrave.

Estate agent Hunt & Nash removed all property listings from the window of its former shop in High Street last week.

The company says the premises were used for its survey business, which was sold last year after a director retired, but it had an arrangement with the new owners to continue using the space for listings.

This has now expired and all operations will run from the company’s other branches in Twyford and Bourne End.

Cllr Halsall, who is a parish and Wokingham borough councillor for Wargrave, says high streets are experiencing problems across the country and rely on the support of locals. He said: “High streets are being attacked everywhere in England.

“The restaurants are hugely successful so people in Wargrave clearly support those. Some other businesses are also successful but there are many shops on the high street that have closed.

“It’s really difficult because Wargrave high street works for the people of Wargrave. If people in the village supports something in the high street it works but otherwise it doesn’t. They need to be the right type of business to attract people in the village.”

Hunt & Nash is the latest in a string of businesses to leave the High Street in the last five years.

Last year, upholsterers A Stitch in Twine in High Street moved to Binfield Heath after being handed its notice as the landlord, a neighbouring dentist’s surgery, wanted to expand.

The store, run by Alex and Rabea Hands, opened in November 2010 and provided services for dozens of residents and businesses in the village. Mr and Mrs Hands initially wanted to stay in the village, where they live with their son, but were unable to find any suitable premises to move to.

In 2014, a dress shop closed less than a year after opening with the owner saying the village was “dead”.

Janet Middleton-Stewart said the Willow Dress Agency in High Street didn’t have enough customers to be profitable and she could have ended up with a large debt if she had kept the business going.

The property later became an art gallery called Robin’s Nest, which is run by illustrator Jo Sinclair, who has lived in the village for almost 40 years, and sells hand-made pictures, sculptures and gifts.

A former car dealership in the village is also in the process of being converted into flats.

Developer Oraclemarker served notice to Pete Palmer, who ran Wargrave Village Car Sales in High Street, last year and has since demolished the building on the site ahead of erecting the 10 new flats.

At the time, parish councillors objected, saying they were worried about the increase in traffic and the loss of a business in the village.

A former antiques shop in the village is also up for auction.

The premises in High Street, which formerly housed Wargrave Antiques, has been put up by Romans property auction firm, which is based in Wokingham.

Wargrave Antiques closed in 2016 when owner John Connell retired due to ill-health.

His family wanted to convert it into four flats because they said there was no interest in the shop as a business premises, despite them lowering the price.

The building would have been extended at the back to provide three one-bedroom flats and a one-bedroom studio.

The parish council supported the application but Wokingham Borough Council turned it down due to the loss of retail space and the “excessive” density and footprint of the development in the Wargrave conservation area.

The property is up for sale at a public auction at at Green Park Conference Centre in Reading on Wednesday, October 3. It has a guide price of £275,000.

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