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Wokingham 'continues to thrive' as business centre

Published: 8 Jan 2013 09:00

A Wokingham business leader believes the town centre remains a good place to trade, despite the news of another shop closure.

Burton and Dorothy Perkins in Market Place will close on January 12, which will be the seventh empty retail unit in the centre.

But Mark Walton, president of Wokingham Chamber of Commerce, said the town was still a business hub.

He said: "Less than 10 per cent of the units in the town centre are empty, which is much less than other towns in east Berkshire, like Bracknell, Maidenhead and Slough.

"Although Burton are going it is a chance for someone else to come in and I think some changeover is good. Wokingham remains a place where businesses can thrive. It may be that the town becomes more of an eating and drinking destination with shoppers going to Reading.

"The chamber wants to make sure Wokingham retains its place as a market town and I think the regeneration is absolutely essential. We have to make sure everyone gets behind it."

Work is due to start on the town centre's redevelopment in May, with the refurbishment of Peach Place.

Plans to redevelop Elms Field, for a supermarket, hotel, shops and homes, are due to be submitted this year.

Tom Wrixon, who has worked for Burton for the last year, said the company was closing as its lease was up and it did not feel it offered value for money to extend it. He said: "It's disappointing that we're leaving as the store has been here for well over a decade - my older brother used to work here."

Eight members of staff work at the shop and it is not yet known if they will be redeployed within the the company following the closure or lose their jobs.

There are currently six vacant premises in Wokingham town centre, with most of these in Market Place/Denmark Street. There are also a number of offices to rent in the centre.

One worried resident, Judith D'Arcy, who has lived in Wokingham for more than 15 years, said: "The number of banks and estate agents in place of the individual shops which used to be here is outrageous. The town is losing its character and I think it used to be much better. From my understanding from talking to shop owners, the rents are extortionate which is why they move out."

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