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St James' Dover, has 18 out of 26 units filled, says manager Geoff Hobbs-East

The St James' development is still not 100% full, a business meeting heard.

The leisure and retail complex remains only 69% filled, with 18 of its 26 units occupied just over 18 months after its opening.

Mr Hobbs-East with Dover Town Team directors, from left Simon Crowley, Sue Jones, Neil Wiggins, Trevor Bond and John Angell. Picture: Sam Lennon
Mr Hobbs-East with Dover Town Team directors, from left Simon Crowley, Sue Jones, Neil Wiggins, Trevor Bond and John Angell. Picture: Sam Lennon

Geoff Hobbs-East, manager at St James' Retail and Leisure Park admitted that this was "frustrating."

But he told an audience that more were expected to open shortly and only one unit was filled on the centre's very first day.

Mr Hobbs'-East made the revelation while guest speaker at the Dover Town Team annual meeting.

He said: "Eighteen out of 26 units are open and trading but now a 21st is under offer and will be signed fairly soon.

"It is frustrating that we are not full but we've made progress."

Panoramic view of St James' . Picture: Sam Lennon
Panoramic view of St James' . Picture: Sam Lennon

He had that the neighbouring Lord Nelson pub, currently closed to customers. has started having renovation and would open in six weeks.

The £53 million complex, at St James Street, opened for the very first time on March 9, 2018 with the Cineworld multiplex the first and only to trade that day.

Other businesses started trading soon afterwards in a phased opening.

In the run-up to the opening there had been fears the complex could drain business from Dover's existing town centre precinct.

But efforts, such as from Dover District Council, have been made to support the precinct as well.

Dover St James'.Picture: Paul Amos.
Dover St James'.Picture: Paul Amos.

Mr Hobbs-East said that of the present 18 business, 10 were completely brand new to Dover and the other eight already had branches in the town.

Some of those eight, he added, left the precinct completely for St James', such as Marks and Spencer, Shoe Zone and Superdrug.

But others, such as, Poundland, Costa Coffee and Greggs, stayed in the town centre and also opened at St James'.

So companies like those have two branches in Dover.

The meeting, at the Dover Marina Hotel, also heard chairman John Angell comment on the successful £2.44 million bid for a grant to improve Market Square.

Dover Town Team were successful in getting funding for the Market Square renovation. Picture: Sam Lennon
Dover Town Team were successful in getting funding for the Market Square renovation. Picture: Sam Lennon

There had been frustration that an earlier application to the government's Coastal Communities Fund had failed.

He commented: "Many would have chucked their hand in and said it's not worth the aggravation."

He thanked organisations such as Dover District Council and Dover Town Council for their support.

The effort to get the funding had been over six years and Mr Angell said: "If anyone asks why took so long, try for a £250 tax rebate from HM Government

"Then try to get a £2.4 million grant."

He also warned: "We have to start work by March 31 next year or we lose the money."

A previous bid to the CCF was made in 2017 but was rejected.

But last month it was announced that the follow-up attempt was successful.

Improvements will include a new fountain with shooting jets.

The area will also have new seating and an extended pedestrian zone.

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