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Developer's disappointment over Debenhams decision
DEVELOPERS have expressed their disappointment at ever-fading hopes of a Debenhams store opening in a North-East town centre.
The department store chain announced last week that had no immediate plans to move into the town, despite being linked with a move into the headquarters of The Northern Echo.
Since its completion in 1992, the Cornmill shopping centre has stood cheek-by-jowl with the 40,000sq ft Echo offices.
Its owners, the Moorfield Group, had hoped the Debenhams development would offer an opportunity to extend the shopping centre with a flagship department store development.
Now, it says it is considering other potential uses for the Priestgate offices, involving "large space users".
Mark Holmes, asset manager at Moorfield Group, said: “We are naturally disappointed that after a long period of negotiation with Debenhams, they are not currently in a position to commit to Darlington.
“We are considering a number of alternative large space users for The Northern Echo building and remain confident about the future of Cornmill.”
Peter Barron, editor of The Northern Echo, said: “It all appears to be up in the air and, like everyone else, we are simply awaiting clarification from the developers.
“Whatever happens to the Priestgate building, we will retain a strong presence in the town centre.”
Negotiations have taken place between Moorfield and Newsquest, which owns The Northern Echo.
Land Registry documents from October 2011 show that the two parties agreed a 25-year lease on the building, for the Debenhams development, but Newsquest retains ownership of the property.
Debenhams has been linked with a move to Darlington for many years and was earmarked to anchor the failed £100m Oval development, which was planned for the site of Darlington’s Commercial Street car park and shelved following the credit crunch.
In July, Darlington Borough Council agreed in principle to make a £3m loan available to Moorfield, to assist the Debenhams project.
Last week, the council confirmed that this loan would not be paid out while the project remains on hiatus.
The three-storey Echo building, on its distinctive corner plot, was completed in its current form in 1917, after the then-proprietors of The Northern Echo bought up land formerly occupied by a thread factory.
It now appears that the chances of seeing Debenhams take over The Northern Echo offices have reached the same conclusion as the ill-fated Oval development.
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