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New-look Abingdon shopping precinct wins praise
Buy this photo » Ian Collett, owner of The Bookstore outside his shop in the precinct
SHOPPERS at Abingdon’s revamped Abbey precinct say they like its new look after a £4.5m facelift, despite ongoing building work.
Developer NewRiver removed the 1960s arcade’s canopies, replaced wooden benches, and created two new two-storey units.
The upgrade, paid for by precinct owners Scottish Widows Investment Partnership (SWIP), was due to be completed before Christmas.
A spokesman for the firm said the work was completed yesterday apart from “snagging” – the process of identifying and resolving defects – which will continue into January.
Shoppers Jean Pugh, 75, and Sherley Howard, 73, from Radley, said they thought the builders had done a good job in difficult circumstances.
Mrs Pugh said: “I think they have done a great job.
“They have worked very hard, and it is near enough finished.
“They have had to compete with pedestrians, it isn’t just building.”
But she added: “We are just still all wondering what the new shops are going to be.”
Mrs Pugh said she would like to see a department store in the precinct, such as BHS or Marks & Spencer.
Mrs Howard said: “Abingdon needs something like that which sells everything, so you don’t have to go through the hustle and bustle of Oxford.
“When it is all finished I think it will bring trade into Abingdon.”
The redevelopment was originally due to begin in February and be completed in October.
But the project got off to a shaky start when it was delayed two weeks into March by legal complications.
McLaren Construction, contracted by SWIP, has repaved the precinct, given shops new pitched roofs and created two new shops – one of 4,800 sq ft and one 2,400 sq ft – but retailers have yet to be found to occupy the units.
The construction process was beset by criticism from independent shop owners who said the work was deterring shoppers, and was responsible for a drop in trade.
But even they agree the new look is an improvement.
Ian Collett, owner of The Bookstore, said: “I think if you have got a man on a cherry picker, it is not finished.
“But it does look so much better already.”
Pillars between shop fronts were supposed to be covered in brick, which is still to be carried out.
And, yesterday, paving was still being put in place.
SWIP spokesman Martin Hughes said: “This was quite a challenging project as the contractors had to cope with working in a busy shopping centre and with adverse weather conditions.
“Apart from snagging and a few minor details, work has been completed prior to Christmas and we are in discussions with retailers about taking the new units.
“We hope to make an announcement on occupiers early in the New Year.”