Page last updated at 09:21 GMT, Monday, 19 October 2009 10:21 UK

Shop centre 35% empty on opening

Developers of a £75m shopping centre in Cornwall say it will still benefit the local economy despite it being 35% unoccupied when it opens in 10 days.

St Austell's new 18-unit White River Place centre is part of a town centre regeneration project.

White River Developments said only 65% of its floor space would be occupied on opening, but it would 80% by Christmas.

The Regional Development Agency (RDA) said it still believed the centre would kick-start the local economy.

HBOS, New Look, Peacocks and Wilkinson are among the confirmed tenants in the centre, which has taken about seven years to complete since its first inception.

Would we make the same investment today? Maybe we'd put a question mark on that
Sandra Rothwell, Regional Development Agency

White River Developments' company director, Sean Finlay, said economic factors meant it would not be full on opening but that they were still receiving enquiries for the remaining units.

He said: "It's mainly the result of the national economic climate. The credit crunch has taken its toll on retailing generally.

"I think we should be proud that we've got the scheme to the point were we can actually open it."

He said another 15% of the floor space would be occupied by Christmas.

He said: "We're a lot more confident now because of new retail enquiries we're having from national retailers.

"They can actually come and view the units as opposed to trying to make a decision off a plan."

The RDA, which has given about £32m to the project, said it was still convinced the project was right for the area despite the recession.

Sandra Rothwell from the RDA said: "Would we make the same investment today? Maybe we'd put a question mark on that. But, at the time, the investment was absolutely right.

"And certainly the British Retailers Association and others say that now is a very good time to invest in town centres, because its all about that confidence of supporting business out of a recession."

The centre, which includes a £3.5m four-screen cinema, is to open on 29 October.

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