DISGRUNTLED residents say another hotel is not needed in Stratford.
Bell Court bosses have revealed contingency plans to turn the Debenhams store – which backs onto the square – into an 80-room hotel.
The proposals for the department store are also set to include residential accommodation and retail space on the ground floor.
Last year the high street chain announced it would close some 30 stores as part of a recovery plan – or company voluntary arrangement (CVA) – to avoid administration.
And although there is no immediate threat to the Stratford branch, Bell Court owner Blue Coast Capital said the uncertainty was a risk to the square which opened two years ago following a £30million redevelopment.
But residents have taken to social media to express their frustration at more hotel plans for the town.
Earlier this year plans were approved for a Travelodge to replace the Picturehouse cinema, followed by hotel and restaurant proposals for the former BHS building.
One resident commented: “The store is so big it has so much potential for something other than a hotel. There are so many retail chains that could benefit in that space, and could offer more shopping opportunities to locals and tourists. We really do not need another hotel.”
And another added: “What about the residents who want to shop in town? It can’t all be coffee shops, restaurants and hotels.”
While home to a cinema, restaurants and a handful of shops, Bell Court still has a number of empty units and recently lost its first retail tenant who moved to neighbouring Leamington complaining they were not getting enough customers in Stratford.
But Bell Court bosses are worried the square could face an abandoned building similar to the empty BHS store at the bottom of Bridge Street.
They say the CVA meant Debenhams’ lease had been reduced and ‘break clauses’ could allow it to end as early as 2021. Although the clause also includes options for 2022 and 2025.
Blue Coast Capital spokesman John Stacey said: “The question mark over the future of Debenhams is a real risk to the vitality that Bell Court has brought to this part of the town. Our plans include further high-quality development in this location and ensure that we have alternative options available to us so that we are not faced with the future possibility of an abandoned building – particularly in such a central location.”
A spokesman for Debenhams said it was hoped the branch would stay open longer but it would likely close in 2021 and customers and staff would be kept informed.
A planning application is expected to be put forward to Stratford District Council in autumn.
Residents can visit www.bellcourtstratford.com to have their say.