'Retail parks eerie and unpleasant after Toys 'R' Us and Homebase leave Wakefield'

Albion Mills retail park, home of the old Toys 'R' us building.
Albion Mills retail park, home of the old Toys 'R' us building.

Retail developments around an area of Wakefield are becoming "eerie" and "unpleasant" at night following store closures, a councillor has said.

Hilary Mitchell, who represents Wakefield West, said that empty units in the Ings Road and Westgate areas had changed the feel of the place after dark.

The long-standing toys chain closed its Wakefield branch after falling into administration.

The long-standing toys chain closed its Wakefield branch after falling into administration.

Coun Mitchell namechecked Toys 'R' Us, whose closed premises stands on the Albion Mills retail park site and Homebase, located half a mile away.

Both stores have closed within the past year, though homeware and garden retailer The Range is due to open in the former Homebase site in April.

But Coun Mitchell said that questions remained over what can be done about premises that remain empty for long periods of time.

Speaking at a scrutiny committee meeting on Monday, she said: "I'm concerned with the huge amount of empty space there is, on retail parks for example, where an awful lot of outlets have closed down.

Homebase closed its Ings Road store on January 4.

Homebase closed its Ings Road store on January 4.

"I know there's a plan to turn shops into homes but you can't turn places like Toys 'R' Us into residential properties.

"Where some of these big, big units have closed - there's Homebase as well - that place can be quite unpleasant at night.

"Some of the other places will stay open until 8pm at night and sometimes I go down there to purchase catfood.

"I've noticed it's becoming quite eerie down there now, whereas it used to be quite a busy and vibrant place."

Toys 'R' Us' Wakefield branch closed last April after the company fell into administration, with Homebase following in January.

Committee chair Glenn Burton agreed the matter should be looked at in further detail at later meetings.

He said: "We know of course from our work on residential properties that it only takes one empty property on one street to affect the whole place. I think the same applies here."

Local Democracy Reporting Service