Boots says sorry to town for the state of empty store

BOOTS has apologised for the condition of one of its properties.

The national retailer has said sorry to the residents of Bognor Regis for letting the former WH Smith premises become a magnet for street drinkers and rough sleepers.

A Boots UK spokeswoman said: “We’re sorry for all the upset that has been caused regarding the re-letting of the shop adjacent to our Boots store in Bognor.

“We are committed to helping local high streets to thrive and finding the best solution for this vacant store and the high street.

“Our decision was to re-open again with a new tenant as soon as possible.

“We hope this store will be re-opened within the next week or so.

“Given this, and the fact that we had to ready the store for new tenants, we need regular access to the store for workmen.”

Discussions were underway with town centre manager Toyubur Rahman to collectively agree the best approach for the site in the London Road precinct given that the boarding should only be needed for a short time, said the spokeswoman.

But, as reported last week, Mr Rahman ordered the boarding up of the vacant shopfront to stop its two recessed doorways being used as shelters for the drinkers and sleepers.

The estimated cost of the installation, painting the boarding, and taking it down again is £1,000.

Mr Rahman was prepared to take the money from his limited budget to ensure the area was finally smartened up.

But the Boots spokeswoman said the company would be funding the cost of the work.

“We apologise that communication on this issue has been poor and caused bad feeling in the community,” she said.

“We would like to 
reassure people that, as the decision was taken to put up the boarding anyway, we will – of course – pay for it.

“We look forward to working with the 
town centre team in the future.”

The former WH Smith has been vacant since September 11 last year. Boots is in talks to let the building to Sports Direct.

Mr Rahman said the company’s reluctance to board up the empty WH Smith because of the continued delays in the negotiations did not reflect on the management of the neighbouring Boots store.

“I would like to stress they have also been putting pressure on their head office and were just as frustrated with the situation,” he said.

“The Boots staff locally are committed to the community and have taken part in many events and initiatives such as the Christmas lights switch on, dressing up for the Dickensian Christmas event and the shop window advent calendar.”

The company had also cleared its car park on Sudley Road which had improved that area of the town centre. But the fact some street drinkers still remained in the precinct showed the need for a wider approach among several organisations to tackle it, he said.