Homebase in Winchester could be split up putting '34 jobs at risk'

PLANS to divide a Winchester DIY store into four separate units have been faced with nearly 70 objections by local residents. Royal London, the landlord of Homebase in Easton Lane, submitted an application to the city council last month, sparking a campaign with 67 formal objections and an online petition through Facebook. But the landlord has denied the plans would take immediate effect, and that Royal London is only looking to ‘keep its options open for the future’.

The company say the changes will only take effect if Homebase choose not to renew the lease or the store becomes vacant in the future, and that the campaign has been formed “following a few mistruths circulating around social media”. Michael Lawrence, head of retail for Royal London, said: “The retail market has evolved significantly in recent years and this has resulted in the failure of some tenants. “Safeguarding and protecting the long-term future of our assets is an important part of our business.

“In Winchester, as we are across the country, we are looking at our assets to ensure that our pension policyholders, whose money we are investing, are protected in the event of tenant defaults.” He added: “While there are no immediate plans for Homebase to vacate the site, we are simply keeping our options open for its future.” But Kyle Forbes, the Winchester store manager, told the Echo he was “concerned” the application is putting 34 jobs at risk – some of which have been held for more than 20 years.

He said: “The store has been located in Winnall for around 25 years. We are fully committed to its future in Winchester and does not want to vacate the site.” Between 2,000 and 4,000 customers visit the store every week.

“Our customers will be hugely inconvenienced and disappointed to lose their Winchester Homebase store,” said Kyle. “We have been overwhelmed with the positive response from our customers who do not want to lose their local Homebase store. Local people who want to show their support should visit the store for more information.”

The plans are likely to go before the planning committee in the near future. If approved, Royal London will have permission to split the building into four units, using one as a food store, one as a “food and and beverage pod”, and the other two as “non-food” stores. Winchester and Chandler’s Ford MP Steve Brine said: “Homebase is a really useful store.

We use it a fair bit ourselves and I think a city the size of Winchester makes it a successful store.

“The City Council should have no truck whatsoever with the current landlord’s wish to quadruple the number of retail units on this site and, no doubt, quadruple their number of tenants at the same time.

He continued: “I have said for some time, the whole Winnall industrial estate area needs a strong business coordination body in the style of the Business Improvement District we have in town.”

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