Willow Brook Centre: one year on (part 2)

Willow Brook Centre 1st Anniversary

Back on 13th October, the first anniversary of the opening of the Willow Brook Centre, we took a look back over the development’s first year of operation.  This is the somewhat belated second part of our report. You can read part one of this article here.

In the first part of our interview, Scott Lahive, Centre Manager, said he was delighted with the (retail) trading performance of the centre over the first twelve months. He is, however, less satisfied with the progress made in letting out the office units within the centre.

Current tenants of office units in the mall are Phoenix Dental (NHS dentist), Willow Brook Clinic (chiropractic and physiotherapy), Kumon (education), CJ Hole (estate agents) and Pitman Training, but there are still four units unoccupied.

Over in the town square, there has been “no serious interest” in the three office units above the retail units occupied by Costa Coffee, Gregs, Taylors, KFC and Ladbrokes.

Bus services began stopping at the centre in May, with the 71, 72 and 73B services entering the complex from Bradley Stoke Way to access a new stop just off the Town Square (in front of the Ladbrokes shop).

Mr Lahive says the centre is currently in discussion with First Group about adding the 71 service. There is, however, no news on how the planning permission obligation to spend £250,000 on “a new bus service into the site” will be satisfied.

Mr Lahive says that anti-social behaviour in the vicinity of the Manor Farm Crescent pedestrian access point has abated, which he puts down to “additional [security] camera presence”.

Earlier problems with large numbers of students from Bradley Stoke Community School descending on the centre in the afternoon have been addressed. Mr Lahive says that 95% of them are “well behaved” and the “disruptive 5%” are now well known to the security staff.

Between 20 and 25 youths, along with two or three adults, are currently banned from using the centre – around half of these are said to be from outside of Bradley Stoke.

The provision of retail kiosks in the centre of the mall has been well received. The kiosks have enabled several local people to transform hobby activities into viable long-term businesses, according to Mr Lahive.

In response to recurring complaints about the lack of public seating in the mall, Mr Lahive had previously admitted to the July meeting of the Bradley Stoke Safer and Stronger Community Group that “too much was spent on seating outside [in the Town Square]”.

The issue is said to be still under review but “budgets are constrained”. Any future seats are likely to be positioned “to the left of Timpsons and/or in the foyer areas, so that the entrance to the Tesco store is not obstructed”, he added.

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