Newsagent claims redevelopment shut him down

Herald Series: Peter Wiblin says he is being forced to shut Abingdon News Plus in Bury Street Buy this photo » Peter Wiblin says he is being forced to shut Abingdon News Plus in Bury Street

AN INDEPENDENT newsagent claims an “appalling” precinct redevelopment has driven him out of business.

Peter Wiblin, who owns Abingdon News Plus in Bury Street, is closing at the end of today...because he can no longer afford the rent on his unit after a drop in customers since work began.

And other traders agree that footfall is yet to improve after it was dented by the £4m building work to improve the 1960s Bury Street Precinct.

Mr Wiblin, 56, said: “The development was so badly organised it drove away our customers and I have not received or been offered a penny in reduction of my rent.

“This is just the first stage of three in the redevelopment and our customers were not going to come back in a hurry.”

Scottish Widows Investment Partnership, which owns the precinct, contracted developers NewRiver to redesign it. NewRiver employed contractors McLaren to undertake the work, which began in April.

In 2011 Mr Wiblin moved his Bury Street shop to a smaller unit further down the road to accommodate the building works. His old unit was demolished and replaced with a larger one.

Mr Wiblin added: “There is no reason I shouldn’t have been successful in a smaller unit, it’s just the appalling manner in which the redevelopment has been done.”

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The larger units in the arcade were supposed to accommodate a national fashion chain, but NewRiver has yet to find an occupant.

Ian Collett, who owns The Bookstore, said his footfall is still down by around 25 per cent, and last Saturday was his worst in 14 years.

He added: “Peter is right, footfall hasn’t picked up, but until we have the two new units filled it won’t. Scottish Widows has not done much to help us.”

Nick Cosford, co-owner of the Abingdon Gift Centre, said he has also seen a drop in customers.

“Independents struggle to pay those levels of rent if you don’t have the footfall to match it,” he said.

In December, NewRiver said the refurbishment work was complete apart from “snagging”. But in January, 300 businesses and homes in the town centre lost power for an hour when a workman hit an underground cable.

Abingdon Chamber of Commerce President Paul Townsend said: “The precinct will be a good thing in the long run, but we don’t want to lose independents: smaller units need to be made affordable.”

Businesses were given a 10 per cent discount on their business rates from last April as compensation from the local authority.

NewRiver spokesman Martin Hughes said: “It is always regrettable when an independent business decides to cease trading and we had recently relocated this business with compensation as a result of the £4 million refurbishment of the shopping centre.

“We wish Mr Wiblin all the best for the future.”

He added: “On a more positive note, we are exploring various new initiatives, including wi-fi, and will be hosting a public event in the near future to re-launch the refurbished and revitalised centre.”

Comments (14)

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9:12am Sun 24 Feb 13

wavydave says...

Sorry Martin but what will (presumably free) WiFi do for the town centre? Somehow I can't see people sat around on benches with their laptops or wandering around making Skype calls. Rather, a mobile phone shop in town would help, plus a semi-decent clothes retailer like Next

What solid initiatives are NewRiver putting in place? And please avoid weasel words like "exploring new initiatives" which equates to 'doing nothing'. Surely it would make more sense to slash rates by say 50% for first 6 months to secure some anchor tenants and get them settled, even if it means making a short-term loss? Or the alternative is empty shops + no income for years.

How has NewRiver engaged with the council to help bring new business to Abingdon, what will be done and in what timescales?
Sorry Martin but what will (presumably free) WiFi do for the town centre? Somehow I can't see people sat around on benches with their laptops or wandering around making Skype calls. Rather, a mobile phone shop in town would help, plus a semi-decent clothes retailer like Next What solid initiatives are NewRiver putting in place? And please avoid weasel words like "exploring new initiatives" which equates to 'doing nothing'. Surely it would make more sense to slash rates by say 50% for first 6 months to secure some anchor tenants and get them settled, even if it means making a short-term loss? Or the alternative is empty shops + no income for years. How has NewRiver engaged with the council to help bring new business to Abingdon, what will be done and in what timescales? wavydave

10:37am Sun 24 Feb 13

lookingfromhere says...

The town council already provides free wi-fi, as do most of the coffee shops in town? The Vale missed the trick here, they own the place and instead of extending Newr River Capital, aka, Scottish Widow, aka Sackville, aka Lloyds lease by another 100 years they should (and could) have terminated it !
The Vale could have run this as a profitable and viable centre for the town, having said that, they "gave" away the guildhall along with a £million because they couldn't run it proftably, so what chance the precinct ??
The town council already provides free wi-fi, as do most of the coffee shops in town? The Vale missed the trick here, they own the place and instead of extending Newr River Capital, aka, Scottish Widow, aka Sackville, aka Lloyds lease by another 100 years they should (and could) have terminated it ! The Vale could have run this as a profitable and viable centre for the town, having said that, they "gave" away the guildhall along with a £million because they couldn't run it proftably, so what chance the precinct ?? lookingfromhere

12:11pm Sun 24 Feb 13

Andrew:Oxford says...

It's a challenge really...

Why would I visit Abingdon - when I could drive past and go to Didcot for free parking or keep going and reach Newbury where there is a John Lewis store.

Alternatively, I could go to High Wycombe, Milton Keynes...

Or, just 45 minutes away in the car is the massive Westfield complex at White City. Just £5 to park all day.
It's a challenge really... Why would I visit Abingdon - when I could drive past and go to Didcot for free parking or keep going and reach Newbury where there is a John Lewis store. Alternatively, I could go to High Wycombe, Milton Keynes... Or, just 45 minutes away in the car is the massive Westfield complex at White City. Just £5 to park all day. Andrew:Oxford

1:25pm Sun 24 Feb 13

abfab123 says...

Andrew:Oxford wrote:
It's a challenge really...

Why would I visit Abingdon - when I could drive past and go to Didcot for free parking or keep going and reach Newbury where there is a John Lewis store.

Alternatively, I could go to High Wycombe, Milton Keynes...

Or, just 45 minutes away in the car is the massive Westfield complex at White City. Just £5 to park all day.
Newbury yes, High Wycombe yes, Westfield yes, Didcot, no.
Cinema aside, as I have used that, what proper shops, apart from Next does Didcot have that Abingdon doesn't?

Unless I am missing something, Didcot appears to be full of cheap clothes shops and the likes of Wilkinsons and Robert Dyas. They obviously have a place on the high street as they keep going but it hardly makes Didcot a shopping mecca! Do people outside of Didcot really drive there to go shopping?
[quote][p][bold]Andrew:Oxford[/bold] wrote: It's a challenge really... Why would I visit Abingdon - when I could drive past and go to Didcot for free parking or keep going and reach Newbury where there is a John Lewis store. Alternatively, I could go to High Wycombe, Milton Keynes... Or, just 45 minutes away in the car is the massive Westfield complex at White City. Just £5 to park all day.[/p][/quote]Newbury yes, High Wycombe yes, Westfield yes, Didcot, no. Cinema aside, as I have used that, what proper shops, apart from Next does Didcot have that Abingdon doesn't? Unless I am missing something, Didcot appears to be full of cheap clothes shops and the likes of Wilkinsons and Robert Dyas. They obviously have a place on the high street as they keep going but it hardly makes Didcot a shopping mecca! Do people outside of Didcot really drive there to go shopping? abfab123

1:55am Mon 25 Feb 13

TonyH says...

Westfield? 45 mins? Not at most times of the day, most days, takes longer - and whilst £5 per day sounds good (certainly compared to wretched Oxford parking - where we never go now), you might add in the fuel cost? No idea what the attraction might be in Wycombe (theatre maybe, hardly shops, could be anywhere?) and if you're going to go all the way to Milton Keynes, and risk going dizzy driving round 800 roundabouts, why not go to Swindon (shopping complexes outside)?
Westfield? 45 mins? Not at most times of the day, most days, takes longer - and whilst £5 per day sounds good (certainly compared to wretched Oxford parking - where we never go now), you might add in the fuel cost? No idea what the attraction might be in Wycombe (theatre maybe, hardly shops, could be anywhere?) and if you're going to go all the way to Milton Keynes, and risk going dizzy driving round 800 roundabouts, why not go to Swindon (shopping complexes outside)? TonyH

8:40am Mon 25 Feb 13

Feelingsmatter says...

I told you so. Honestly, when this redevelopment was given the go-ahead I said that firstly it would not be finished in time for Christmas and secondly it would have no immediate effect on foot-fall. Some said my attitude was very negative, and that I should say something supportive about our lovely town. I would very much LIKE to say something positive, but after getting sick and fed up of fighting my way through builders muck, hoardings and empty shops, I do not shop in Abingdon any more. I'm sick of finding new coffee shops and "Cash 4 Gold!" stores where we used to have interesting, independent traders.
I told you so. Honestly, when this redevelopment was given the go-ahead I said that firstly it would not be finished in time for Christmas and secondly it would have no immediate effect on foot-fall. Some said my attitude was very negative, and that I should say something supportive about our lovely town. I would very much LIKE to say something positive, but after getting sick and fed up of fighting my way through builders muck, hoardings and empty shops, I do not shop in Abingdon any more. I'm sick of finding new coffee shops and "Cash 4 Gold!" stores where we used to have interesting, independent traders. Feelingsmatter

10:29am Mon 25 Feb 13

livid99 says...

Shops are closing and the whole place looks run-down.But Hey don't worry.... because there will be WiFi.
FFS If I want a book or a newspaper, how is WiFi going to help ?
Typical of the decline of this country...replace proper businesses and industry with superficial stuff, and in the end we are left with nothing. And as soon as a "spokesperson" for these developers opens their mouth, you know exactly what is going to come out....
Shops are closing and the whole place looks run-down.But Hey don't worry.... because there will be WiFi. FFS If I want a book or a newspaper, how is WiFi going to help ? Typical of the decline of this country...replace proper businesses and industry with superficial stuff, and in the end we are left with nothing. And as soon as a "spokesperson" for these developers opens their mouth, you know exactly what is going to come out.... livid99

10:54am Mon 25 Feb 13

abfab123 says...

I would be interested to know if there has been any feedback from the shops that have been approached (if that has happened). What is putting them off? Is it the rent or lack of shoppers.
Abingdon has more going for it than a lot of local towns as we have some nice buildings and the river and the abbey.
I would be interested to know if there has been any feedback from the shops that have been approached (if that has happened). What is putting them off? Is it the rent or lack of shoppers. Abingdon has more going for it than a lot of local towns as we have some nice buildings and the river and the abbey. abfab123

1:12pm Mon 25 Feb 13

Andrew:Oxford says...

TonyH wrote:
Westfield? 45 mins? Not at most times of the day, most days, takes longer - and whilst £5 per day sounds good (certainly compared to wretched Oxford parking - where we never go now), you might add in the fuel cost? No idea what the attraction might be in Wycombe (theatre maybe, hardly shops, could be anywhere?) and if you're going to go all the way to Milton Keynes, and risk going dizzy driving round 800 roundabouts, why not go to Swindon (shopping complexes outside)?
Depends on your car really. Say 100 mile round trip from central Oxford. My car averages 65mpg on the motorway.

So that's 7 litres of fuel @ £1.40 a litre. £9.80 + £5.00 for parking.
[quote][p][bold]TonyH[/bold] wrote: Westfield? 45 mins? Not at most times of the day, most days, takes longer - and whilst £5 per day sounds good (certainly compared to wretched Oxford parking - where we never go now), you might add in the fuel cost? No idea what the attraction might be in Wycombe (theatre maybe, hardly shops, could be anywhere?) and if you're going to go all the way to Milton Keynes, and risk going dizzy driving round 800 roundabouts, why not go to Swindon (shopping complexes outside)?[/p][/quote]Depends on your car really. Say 100 mile round trip from central Oxford. My car averages 65mpg on the motorway. So that's 7 litres of fuel @ £1.40 a litre. £9.80 + £5.00 for parking. Andrew:Oxford

1:56pm Mon 25 Feb 13

oxinkytext says...

I also don't understand this obsession with Wi-fi. The Vale council is always banging on about introducing Wi-fi (at what cost?) to market towns as if it is some sort of panacea for all the problems in our town centres. It is simple really... most people want GOOD shops to venture into centres. It seems as if the council is technically illiterate and has only just latched onto the Internet just when most people have 3G (soon to be 4G) on their phones. Much better they concentrate on other things like lobbying for lower business rates and cleaning the streets!
I also don't understand this obsession with Wi-fi. The Vale council is always banging on about introducing Wi-fi (at what cost?) to market towns as if it is some sort of panacea for all the problems in our town centres. It is simple really... most people want GOOD shops to venture into centres. It seems as if the council is technically illiterate and has only just latched onto the Internet just when most people have 3G (soon to be 4G) on their phones. Much better they concentrate on other things like lobbying for lower business rates and cleaning the streets! oxinkytext

6:46pm Mon 25 Feb 13

Abingdon born and bred says...

"In December, NewRiver said the refurbishment work was complete apart from “snagging”. But in January, 300 businesses and homes in the town centre lost power for an hour when a workman hit an underground cable"

And now we are about to enter March and still the builders are "snagging"
Broken, cracked loose and uneven slabs. Brickwork unfinished, pillars with mixed finishes(brick and marble effect slabs.
Would someone from New River and the contractors McClaren be willing to face a public meeting and explain why 2 months later they are still snagging?
The area around Timpsons/Poundland now doubles as a Skateboard and BMX park and you have to risk being run down by the kids on the BMX bikes with no brakes.
Bring back the Edwards Brothers please
"In December, NewRiver said the refurbishment work was complete apart from “snagging”. But in January, 300 businesses and homes in the town centre lost power for an hour when a workman hit an underground cable" And now we are about to enter March and still the builders are "snagging" Broken, cracked loose and uneven slabs. Brickwork unfinished, pillars with mixed finishes(brick and marble effect slabs. Would someone from New River and the contractors McClaren be willing to face a public meeting and explain why 2 months later they are still snagging? The area around Timpsons/Poundland now doubles as a Skateboard and BMX park and you have to risk being run down by the kids on the BMX bikes with no brakes. Bring back the Edwards Brothers please Abingdon born and bred

12:13pm Wed 27 Feb 13

'goinghome' says...

It is a shame this newsagents have suffered and i do feel for those hard working people who have suffered. The new build has not prevented me shopping in Abingdon, in fact it looks great. People are generally not shopping anywhere.
To add, i went into the bookstore a few weeks back during a fairly quiet time, the chap behind the counter just stood with his arms crossed and could not even say hello, or can he help. Also the choice of books is very random. I would not shop there again, i went to WH Smiths instead..the chain store! Customer service may go a long way!
It is a shame this newsagents have suffered and i do feel for those hard working people who have suffered. The new build has not prevented me shopping in Abingdon, in fact it looks great. People are generally not shopping anywhere. To add, i went into the bookstore a few weeks back during a fairly quiet time, the chap behind the counter just stood with his arms crossed and could not even say hello, or can he help. Also the choice of books is very random. I would not shop there again, i went to WH Smiths instead..the chain store! Customer service may go a long way! 'goinghome'

3:23pm Wed 27 Feb 13

Abingdon Neil says...

@goinghome - I agree with you that it now looks much better overall. have you tried Mostly Books on Stert Street? They're excellent, very friendly and helpful.
@goinghome - I agree with you that it now looks much better overall. have you tried Mostly Books on Stert Street? They're excellent, very friendly and helpful. Abingdon Neil

10:08am Fri 1 Mar 13

isitjustme? says...

Why have we not questioned where did 4 million come from as a figure and how we have managed not to cover the precinct which surely could have come within that cost? As the weather to often plays its part in keeping what little shoppers left away.
Why have we not questioned where did 4 million come from as a figure and how we have managed not to cover the precinct which surely could have come within that cost? As the weather to often plays its part in keeping what little shoppers left away. isitjustme?

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