Waitrose leaving Hertford for Amwell End

20 October 2014

I see that an application has been made by CBRE on behalf of Van Hages Garden Centre for part demolition and extension of their existing store and provision for a food store. The Hertford Waitrose store is not mentioned by name in the application but are partners to the accompanying documentation.

You can view the application by clicking on the East Herts Council Planning page and using the reference: 3/14/1708/FP (application since refused).

From my knowledge of the negotiations this always appeared to be the preferred option for Waitrose. They were unsuccessful in their bid to build a store on McMullens land having been outbid by Sainsburys. Their application to build a store in Ware was approved by the East Herts Council planners but overruled by the Executive in favour it would appear with hindsight Asda, who have now begun building work.

Where does this leave the Hertford store?

Waitrose is central to a proposed application by Wrenbridge for the Bircherley Green Regeneration Plan which involves a new anchor food store and 124 new homes – see my earlier post on the impact this will have on the bus station and other access routes.

There are various scenarios for Bircherley Green and Hertford in general – none of which are particularly positive.

If the Van Hages application is successful and Waitrose leave Hertford in mid-2016 when their lease expires what will happen to the empty space? There is no obvious tenant to fill this as no other major supermarket chain has expressed an interest although no doubt urgent enquiries are being conducted by the management team at Savills.

If the Van Hages planning application fails and Waitrose decide to stay will the regeneration application by Wrenbridge be approved considering there are already grave concerns over transport and housing issues?

In the event that this is successful where will Waitrose go for at least eighteen months whilst the new shopping centre is being built, including customers and staff?

Finally if Waitrose do leave for Amwell End in 2016 and there is no incoming tenant what will happen to Bircherley Green in particular and Hertford in general. Wrenbridge have already intimated that in the last analysis if no anchor store can be found Bircherley Green may just rot away.

This is in no-ones best interests but until one or more planing application is approved then speculation will continue to haunt the town.