SHOPPERS have hit out at ‘cynical’ and ‘hypocritical’ plans to revive an ailing shopping street, saying the firm behind the idea contributed to the downturn in the first place.
Last week, Sorbon Estates, the commercial property arm of Shanly Group, announced it would trial three short-term, cost-price shop lettings on Spittal Street to help boost trade.
The company, owned by multi-millionaire Michael Shanly and one of Marlow’s most prevalent landlords, is searching for fledgling retailers while it finds the right permanent customers for the stores.
But the move sparked an angry reaction among MFP readers, who believe Shanly Group is responsible for the raft of empty premises along the once thriving street.
Marlow resident Steve Shenfield said: "I am just a resident of Marlow who loves the town and has been saddened by the decline of the high street and the surrounding locale.
"(The Shanly Group) is, in part, responsible for the raft of empty shops throughout the town.
"Over recent years the company have indiscriminately bought up properties, subsequently increased the rents and in doing so have forced out the independent traders that once made our town so unique.
"It must be particularly galling to those traders that have struggled against a faltering economy, increased costs and then had to pack it in.
"I wonder if this is not just a cynical ploy to gain support for the planned housing development of Windsor House."
Another resident, Bonnie Johnson, suggested the move was "hypocritical" and that the firm had been "hoisted by their own petard" by being forced to cut prices to encourage traders back to empty shops.
Spittal Street has seen a glut of businesses leave in the past year, with several premises currently lying empty.
Three independent retailers including Marlow Flooring made way for Sorbon’s recently refurbished shops in Spittal Street, which have remained empty since they were completed last year.
And Sorbon insists it is taking its time searching for the right long-term tenants to ensure a good retail mix for the town.
Meanwhile, Shanly Homes is looking planning permission to build 14 new homes nearby on the site of Windsor House at the corner of Spittal and Dean Streets.
Jonathan Gould, Senior Estates Manager at Sorbon, said: "Town centre businesses across the country have suffered greatly over the last few years due to the economic downturn but we believe it’s important to invest in the long-term future of our high streets. It is for this reason we are pleased to be a part of the regeneration of these premises on Spittal Street.
"It was also vitally important that the street scene itself was improved so the buildings externally have undergone a complete transformation; the final stage is the new shop fronts which are being installed at the end of this month.
"We hope all these measures will encourage shoppers to visit this part of the town."