Colchester: William & Griffin revamp could start renaissance in town say business leaders

THE approval of plans for a �30million redevelopment of a Colchester department store will be the start of a “renaissance” for the town, according to business leaders.

David Birch, director of policy at the Essex Chambers of Commerce said the scheme for Williams and Griffin in the High Street had the potential to transforms the High Street, attracting more shoppers and boost trade for independent retailers.

Colchester Borough Council’s planning committee approved plans to expand the shop’s retail space by 50% and add a modern glass front at a meeting on Thursday evening.

Mr Birch said: “We welcome the decision by the borough council to approve the re-development of Williams and Griffin. This is a �40million investment in Colchester town centre which is a very strong vote of confidence in the future of the town.

“Colchester has a lot to offer shoppers and businesses generally but there is always competition from neighbouring towns.

“Any shopping centre which wishes to remain competitive always has to look to the future and what it’s offering.

“We very much hope this will be the start of the renaissance for the High Street in Colchester. Colchester has shopping precincts but this is going to help encourage people to come in to the High Street itself and we hope the vibrancy from Williams and Griffin will permeate down to other shops as well.

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“It’s good news for Colchester and good news for businesses.”

Concerns had been raised by English Heritage over the plans which will result in the demolition of 147 and 149 High Street, which were built in the 1920s, but the council deemed the scheme would bring greater benefits than harm.

Yesterday a spokeswoman from Fenwick Ltd, which owns William and Griffin, said the buildings would still have to be demolished but efforts would be made to salvage some of store front’s original 1920s facade if practical.

Last night, the Essex Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) also welcomed the borough council’s decision.

Janet Jack, chairwoman of the north east Essex branch of the FSB said: “It will definitely have a positive knock on effect for the rest of the high street and bring more people into the town.

“Ipswich now has a John Lewis and Chelmsford will also be getting a John Lewis hub in the future, so people will go to these towns if they’ve not got the facilities in Colchester.

“Sometimes it takes a big company to get things started for the rest of the High Street, so we can only prosper from that. We just need the council to stay behind it.”