Gloucestershire

Cheltenham's Beechwood Shopping Centre shuts

Beechwood Shopping Centre
Image caption Shops have been moving out of the shopping arcade over the past few months

Twenty-five years of shopping at Cheltenham's Beechwood Shopping Centre ends this weekend as the final tenant - Debenhams - shuts up shop.

The arcade, which opened in 1991, is to be converted into a huge new John Lewis store, due to open next year.

Former town centre manager Martin Quantock said he felt nostalgic about it closing but it was the "beginning of a new era" for Cheltenham.

Debenhams employs 58 permanent staff, some of whom are being made redundant.

Image caption The centre's indoor garden was an innovative feature

John Lewis plans to convert the whole site into one huge department store in a £30m deal with site owners BlackRock and Cheltenham Borough Council.

Mr Quantock, town centre manager between 2002 and February 2015, said he had "mixed feelings" about its closure and had fond memories of the staff who had worked there.

"I worked in several towns all over the country and I never came across a shopping centre quite like that one, with a garden set in the middle," he said.

But he said its design had changed little since it opened in 1991 and there had been rumours of a refit for years.

John Lewis was a "massive name" and would be a major draw to Cheltenham, he said.

Debenhams, which has been the centre's biggest tenant, will close on Saturday. It has said it is "disappointed" to lose the site.

In a statement on Friday, it said: "We have consulted with our colleagues and provided them with the necessary support.

"A number of the colleagues from the store have been redeployed within the business and it is with great regret that we have had to make some redundancies."

John Lewis says it will "work directly with Debenhams' HR team to ensure their current employees that are impacted by this have a fair opportunity to gain employment with us".

Image copyright BlackRock
Image caption The shopping centre will be transformed into a John Lewis store

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