Bath set to pull plug on mall

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A SHOPPING centre in the heart of one of Britain's most prosperous historic cities is on the verge of collapse. Last week, the owners of a stationer's announced they were to move out of The Colonnades in the centre of Bath, leaving only two shops in a development designed for 36.

The pounds 12m centre, built four years ago, would not be much missed. Sylvia Cowling, a local artist, said: 'It was a speculative venture by developers who thought they only had to build it and people would flock in. The whole place is naff.'

A survey last week by the local newspaper, the Bath & West Evening Chronicle, showed backing for a department store on the site. But the agent for the owner, Oxford University Chest, dismissed such talk as speculation. Traders blame Bath city council for the demise of the centre. Although close to the Pump Room and Bath's main shopping thoroughfares, Union Street and Stall Street, The Colonnades is tucked out of the way. Because its facade is Grade I listed, signposts and banners advertising it are forbidden.

Sharon Maryon, who owns Topical Flesh, which sells wedding dresses and ballgowns of her own design, has been a tenant in the mall since it opened. 'At first it was really bustling and it has been sad to see businesses go. The city council made a lot of promises which it didn't keep.'

Bath council counters that the mix of shops was wrong. It was designed for small, speciality shops and it was not somewhere office workers were likely to visit at lunchtime.

Some commercial agents believe the development was doomed from the start.

Mike McElhinney, a partner in the commercial letting agents King Sturge, said: 'The Colonnades has been more of a blight, sending out a poor image. The development was a consequence of people not stopping to think.'

He said shoppers visiting Bath did not want to spend their time in a modern mall; most of them wanted to shop outside and take in the Georgian buildings. The Colonnades had also been built away from other well-established specialist shops.