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New tenant for Norwich's former BHS store could be agreed 'by Easter' - but who will it be?

PUBLISHED: 07:54 15 March 2017 | UPDATED: 08:57 16 March 2017

The former BHS site on St Stephen's Street.

The former BHS site on St Stephen's Street.

Archant

A new tenant for the former BHS premises in Norwich could be announced by Easter, bringing back into use one of the city's biggest retail units.

The former department store’s site in St Stephen’s Street has been empty since last August, when the troubled chain closed its doors for good, leaving 11,000 staff out of work.

But a deal to secure a new tenant could be finalised within weeks, according to a property agent involved in the deal.

Adrian Fennell, a partner at Roche Chartered Surveyors, said discussions were progressing and completion was “pretty close” on the 45,000 sq ft premises, which are some of the largest in Norwich.

He said: “It’s a tough retail climate at the moment, and in large sites people want to get it right.”

Mr Fennell would not reveal the identity of the potential tenant but said it was “in keeping” with existing businesses in the area.

“I would expect it to be a big benefit to St Stephen’s Street, because we’ve had a vacant store there since last summer. For it to be occupied again will bring back some vitality to the street,” he added.

Since the shop was vacated last August, following a closing-down sale in which the fixtures and fittings were put up for sale, its entrance area has been used by rough sleepers.

A notice was placed at the entrance in the name of Aviva Life and Pensions UK, the owners, ordering those using it to leave by Monday afternoon or face removal.

A spokesman for the company said it had put the people affected in touch with local charities able to help.

The department store’s collapse in April led to the loss of 11,000 jobs, affected 22,000 pensions, sparked a lengthy parliamentary inquiry and left its high-profile former owners potentially facing a criminal investigation.

Retail billionaire Sir Philip Green has borne the brunt of the public fallout, having been branded the “unacceptable face of capitalism” by furious MPs.

Sir Philip owned BHS for 15 years before selling it to serial bankrupt Dominic Chappell for £1 in 2015.

Sir Philip has come under fire for taking more than £400m in dividends from the chain, leaving it with a £571m pension deficit and for selling it to a man with no retail experience.

Who would you like to see in the former BHS unit? Leave your comments below.

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