Saturday, 17 October 2015

The Piece Hall - what we don't know

Mini rant...

Every day customers ask whether Three Bags Full will be returning to The Piece Hall when the refurbishment is complete. The truthful answer is that we don't know, but the signs are that TPTB don't want us back. Mainly I'm assuming this from the fact that there has been virtually no communication from the people in charge of the refurb, or from the council, regarding the position of former tenants. No updates on the particular units we'd had allotted to us. In fact, no sign that those unofficial allocations will be honoured. They weren't confirmed in writing, but we were all asked what square footage we'd like and where we'd like our shops to be situated. There was no special tour arranged for former tenants; in contrast, I think all the recent tours were arranged during times when you'd expect little specialist shops like ours to be open and therefore the shop owners  - well, Mike and I certainly - were unable to attend. The obligation - which is in writing - for former tenants to be offered a unit in the refurbished Piece Hall, appears not to have been shared with the people who are arranging the new lets. Indeed, while we all spent many hours in meetings about this, and while the offer of a unit in the revamped building was very important at the time to all of us, it's now clear that it wasn't actually important to anyone on the other side of the table. How could the council not tell those letting the units that we have a prior claim? Did those hours of meetings count for so little?

It's now mid-October and the building should be ready for occupation by next summer. We don't know whether it's on track. We don't know how many retail units will be available. We don't know whether they'll be ground floor or first floor. We don't know how the trustees will square the need to make money from the building with the needs of retail customers (the disastrous Food and Drink Festival of a few years ago springs to mind regarding conflicting needs). We don't know what the terms and conditions for tenancy will be, nor the projected length of tenancy, nor the possible service charge, nor...well, anything else really. Because those in charge aren't communicating with us. Emails to relevant people go unanswered. To his credit, Cllr Tim Swift does answer emails but in July he said we'd all be contacted by the team 'in the near future'. Well, we're almost in the run up to Christmas and there's been no word. No communication; no courtesy; no interest.

Our tenancy at The Old Bank finishes at the end of May next year, so I need to be making some decisions. I don't know what any of the other former PH shop owners want - I suspect several have done better outside the Piece Hall than in, and that they're glad to be free of council control - but the refurb team should at least show a little thought for those of us who were willing to believe the council was acting in good faith two years ago and who would like to possibly take up the option of a return.

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