Inside Britain's 'zombie' shopping centre where EVERY store is shut

Inside Britain’s ‘zombie’ shopping centre where EVERY store is shut: Retail park in Wales has no open shops after M&S, Nike, Edinburgh Woollen Mill and Gap all moved out amid High Street slump

  • Festival Park shopping centre has been called a ‘zombie-land’ after stores left the site in southeast Wales
  • It was opened in 1997 on the site of the Ebbw Vale Garden Festival, Gwent, which aimed to rejuvenating area
  • The 1992 event was part of the Government’s National Garden Festivals scheme in former UK industrial sites 
  • Birmingham-based developer Mercia Real Estate, bought the site last year to create a ‘business centre’ 

A shopping centre dubbed the worst in Britain has no open stores — and is going to be ‘recycled’ into a business centre after a host of top names moved out.

Shoppers said that Festival Park shopping centre is a ‘zombie-land’ with lines of empty stores after more than 40 companies including M&S, Nike, Edinburgh Woollen Mill, Costa and Gap moved out in a retail slump.

When independent traders moved out it was left with a single Sports Direct store — but that has now closed because so few people were visiting. 

The centre was opened in 1997 on the site of the Ebbw Vale Garden Festival, Gwent.

The 1992 festival was part of the Government’s National Garden Festivals scheme, which saw heavy investment from taxpayer funds in former industrial sites.

The celebratory event welcomed as Prince Charles, singer Dannii Minogue and actress Catherine Zeta Jones, as visitors enjoyed the funfair, plant exhibitions, gardens and a cable railway.

A shopping centre dubbed the worst in Britain has no open stores — and is going to be ‘recycled’ into a business centre after a host of top names moved out

The centre was opened in 1997 on the site of the Ebbw Vale Garden Festival, Gwent

Some locals blamed lack of investment and planning by the Labour-run Blaenau Gwent Council for the decline — and others pointed at a lack of private investment

The shopping centre then took over the site, with many of the sculptures and original features from the 1992 event remaining in place. 

Shopper Megan Woods, 59, said: ‘It was amazing then — long queues to get in and a real buzz. 

‘It has its own fairground and even a talking moving clock.. But now it is more like a zombie-land with no-one here.

‘Something has gone very wrong somewhere that all that investment of taxpayers money was wasted. It was getting bad before the pandemic but now it is just ridiculous.’

Some locals blamed lack of investment and planning by the Labour-run Blaenau Gwent Council for the decline — and others pointed at a lack of private investment.

Last year the council announced Mercia Real Estate Ltd, a privately-owned real estate investment company, have taken over the shopping centre.

When independent traders moved out it was left with a single Sports Direct store — but that has now closed

Last year the council announced Mercia Real Estate Ltd, a privately-owned real estate investment company, have taken over the shopping centre

Shop owner Kim Maguire moved out of Festival Park to the town centre high street, even though her John Jenkins gift shop was one of the original stores on the site

Shop owner Kim Maguire moved out of Festival Park to the town centre high street, even though her John Jenkins gift shop was one of the original stores on the site.

She said: ‘I still regularly hear from customers about how much they miss Festival Park, and how shocked they all are at what has happened to it over the last few years.

‘It was a sad day when it closed for me as a business and for the community as a whole. 

‘Everyone who worked there misses it as well, though we are now in a larger shop further towards the centre of town.’

Kelvin Morgan, who once ran a fresh fruit and veg shop at Festival Park, said he had been desperately sad to see the site’s decline after leaving more than a year ago.

Shopper Megan Woods, 59, said that Festival Park used to be ‘amazing’ and had a ‘buzz’ 

The shopping centre took over the site in 1997 with many of the sculptures and original features from the Ebbw Vale Garden Festival remaining in place

The centre had a play park called the Adventure Castle as part of its offering to families 

‘It used to be so beautiful over there with all the flower gardens and shops, so to see it as it is now is very sad,’ he said.

‘I even remember the excitement when it opened as the Garden Festival, and you used to have hundreds of people over there when it first changed to a shopping centre after that. ‘

Birmingham-based property developer Mercia Real Estate, which bought the site last year, wants to convert the shopping park into a ‘mixed-use business centre.’

Agents Savills said in a planning application: ‘MRE’s vision for the mall is to recycle and repurpose the existing land and buildings to create a mixed-use business centre.

‘The previously developed site is now completely vacant, but with limited remodelling to the buildings and the hard areas around them it can provide space for a range of employment-generating uses.

‘MRE also want attract users that may include a mixture of activities — like trade counters, tool hire companies and builder’s merchants.’

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