Harpenden shops forced to close

DETERMINED shop leaseholders in Harpenden left reeling after their landlord suddenly gave them notice to quit their premises have vowed to continue trading elsewhere in town.

It is believed that the new landlord of the parade of shops from 95-101 Luton Road is pursuing plans to develop the site.

A source, who did not want to be named, said there is talk of the wine store, butchers and newsagents being knocked down to make way for a shopping development, possibly a mini-mart.

Karl Jelley, manager of Jelley’s Meats, and Paul Rollings, who established Rollings Wine Company in 1997, would not comment on the rumours but confirmed they have been told by their new landlord that leases for their shops would not be renewed.

Karl, a New Zealand-born and trained butcher based in Harpenden since 2006, said he was sad to leave Luton Road after building up customers from Luton, Slip End, Redbourn and Harpenden.

He added: “But we are looking to relocate in Harpenden, and possibly starting a delivery service for those who cannot travel to shops.”

Karl said he hoped to open a butchery in Southdown in July.

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Paul said: “We are being positive about it. We are taking the opportunity to move into the centre of Harpenden. But local residents are disappointed to see us go. We expect to leave at the end of May, once the new premises are organised.”

However Viv Millington, who has run The News Shop for 12 years, said closure of her friend’s shops on the parade would force her into semi-retirement.

Although her lease runs for a few more years Viv is, “choosing to go at this point because I’m going to struggle financially.”

She said: “I’m very sad about it because a lot of the people here aren’t just our customers. They are our friends. We know when they are going away, when their children are graduating, when they are getting married.

“We have people coming in for a cup of tea. This is what people will miss, that sense of community.”

Viv explained: “I was brought up in Harpenden and this is like my home. I don’t know when I’m going to leave but if anyone knows of a little shop that isn’t too expensive to run, please let me know.”

St Albans district councillor for Harpenden north John Chambers said he had also heard rumours about a retail unit being built at the site and he was, “sorry to see the shops close as they have been there for years.

“I hope they come to an amicable arrangement with the landlord to vacate the premises. It is yet another facility that is going, like the Post Office.”

He said that no planning application has yet been submitted to the council so it was a “guessing game” as to what would replace the shops.

The Herts Advertiser was unable to contact the landlord for comment.