On the 20th January, Debenhams in Wimbledon closed its doors for the last time, just eight months after the debt-laden chain entered financial difficulty and fell into the hands of its lenders. The department store has been a constant feature since 1992 when Centre Court first opened its doors, following the earlier regeneration of Wimbledon town centre. So with one of Centre Court’s biggest tenants now gone and questions hanging over the development of the whole town centre can the shopping centre continue in its current form?
A significant external threat to Centre Court – and high streets across the country generally – is the financial difficulties many major chain stores face as a result of a shift in consumer buying to online sales. Consumers now spend one in every five pounds online. This means many retailers have more space in terms of outlets than they need and can afford and are often tied into long leases. H&M, River Island and Boots– some of the big high street names in Centre Court – are all reported to be struggling in the current tough retail market.
Another threat closer to home for Centre Court is Crossrail 2, an audacious plan to link Surrey and Hertfordshire via London train stations such as Wimbledon. Previous reports indicated that an estimated 60% of the shopping centre would have to be demolished to make space for a regenerated Wimbledon Station, which would have four new platforms to accommodate an extra 30 trains every hour. The upgraded station is projected to open around 2030. However, TFL have said the station would take 8-10 years to build, so Centre Court could feel the consequences sooner rather than later.
So can Merton Council’s ‘Wimbledon Masterplan’ enhance the development of the town centre and Centre Court in the face of major potential change? Although the plan currently intends to ‘maintain’ the shopping centre, it also intends to ‘accommodate more independent retailers’ and ‘create viable space for start-ups to grow’. With the uncertainty that changing consumer trends and Crossrail 2 bring, Centre Court may need to adapt and evolve to ensure it remains a thriving hub around Wimbledon Town centre in the coming years.
A six-week consultation on the final draft of Merton’s ‘Wimbledon Masterplan’ launched on 24 January. Local resident associations, including Friends of Wimbledon Town Centre (FOWTC) are calling on all local people to make their views and objections known about the proposed development of the town. To review the plan and register your views visit merton.gov.uk and subscribe online to FOWTC for updates.
Special Thanks To Richmond and Twickenham Times for their Article- https://www.richmondandtwickenhamtimes.co.uk/youngreporter/18203507.change-wimbledons-centre-court-shopping-centre—alex-buchanan-wilsons-school/