More than 90 per cent of new town centre is let out

Giles Babb, landord of The Blue Bell

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WITH less than a month to go until it opens, a new town centre development has filled more than 90 per cent of its stores.

Fifteen more lettings have been announced for the 53-unit Whiteley scheme, including Fat Face, Body Shop, Jones Bootmaker,

The joint venture retail and leisure development by British Land and Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), opens on May 23.

It has replaced the failed outlet shopping village which used to be on the site until it was completely demolished to start again from scratch.

The 320,000 sq ft Hampshire development is one of only three UK shopping and leisure schemes opening this year.

The entrance area to the centre has been reserved for independent stores, and so far five of those units have been confirmed, with Montagu’s Cafe Bar and Bistro being the latest name confirmed.

Montagu’s co-owners David Williams and Fiona Thomas set up Fresh to Desk Ltd in 2011, a cafe bar and coffee lounge located on nearby Solent Business Park.

Ms Thomas said: ‘Our hope is that Montagu’s will become a destination venue because of our reputation for good food and service – as with Fresh to Desk – but we also want it to be a place for locals to visit and enjoy.

‘The response to us, a small independent company becoming a part of a project of this scale has been extremely positive and encouraging.’

Mr Williams added: ‘As a business, we were always looking for a second outlet and with the Whiteley shopping centre I liked what the developer was doing and the environment they’ve created.

Centre manager Neil Carter added: ‘We’re honoured that Fiona and David have chosen Whiteley to launch their own new venture, and if it’s anything like Fresh to Desk, it’s certain to be a great success.

‘Montagu’s is just one of several local independent retailers opening when we launch on May 23, which means we’re able to offer a truly unique mix of the big-name brands we all love, and local independent retailers like Montagu’s, who are offering something different.’

Alongside these stores, Mexican food chain Chimichanga, American-themed restaurant Dean’s Diner, and Harvester will also join the line-up.

Other major players already announced include Marks & Spencer, Topshop, Next, River Island and Clarks.