Posted inNews

Plans for new gym in Cwmbran town centre confirmed

artist's impression of entrance to a gym
Plans indicating how signage could be displayed on the former House of Fraser store in Cwmbran. Picture: Torfaen County Borough Council planning file.

CWMBRAN’S former House of Fraser is no longer attractive to retailers, it’s been claimed, as plans for a gym in the disused department store are confirmed. 

Council planners have given the go-ahead for the first floor of the building that dominates the Cwmbran Shopping Centre to be used as a round-the-clock gym. 

The ground floor of the building in Gwent Square, which has been vacant since June 2022 despite being described as “one of the anchor units of the shopping centre”, will be divided into three units. The largest ground floor unit will be used for selling gym clothing and equipment, while existing windows will be replaced with doors to the new units and access to the first floor gym, which will be occupied by the JD Gyms chain run by the sports fashion retailer JD Sports. 

The firm announced plans to open one of its branded gyms at an undisclosed location in Cwmbran in February, while in April details of a £4.1 million Welsh Government-backed makeover of the former department store as a new ‘flagship’ fashion retailer and gym were revealed. In August plans were submitted to Torfaen Borough Council seeking change of use planning permission for the first floor which confirmed the gym would be operated as a 24 hour, seven days a week gym by JD Sports. 

The application was made on behalf of the shopping centre owners, L&C Investments Ltd, which at the same time also applied for permission to divide the ground floor units. Both applications have been approved by Torfaen Borough Council’s planning department, which has said the plans will “add viability and vitality to the existing shopping centre” and a gym will “meet wellbeing objectives of creating a healthy society”. 

A statement submitted as part of the change of use application, by the shopping centre owners, outlines that large department stores are no longer attractive to retailers. It states some 1,400 retailers have entered administration across the UK since 2010 and blames competition from the internet and Covid among other factors, and since 2016 more shops have closed than opened, leading to an over-supply of retail space. 

The statement adds: “One major element of the High Street has been the demise of the department store e.g. Debenhams, British Home Stores. Other department stores have closed their stores in various cities e.g. Marks & Spencer in Cwmbran.” 

It states that due to the size of traditional department stores they are “extremely hard to put to new use” and the Cwmbran store, which compromises 3,475 square metres, hasn’t attracted any demand from retailers that now favour smaller premises. 

According to the application in September there were 21 vacant units in the town centre totalling 14,706 sqm – or another four House of Fraser stores – and the advice to the centre landlords was that “no users would come forward for the entire building, particularly given the amount of other vacant floorspace”. 

It was also told while the ground floor would be attractive to retailers, it would be more viable divided into smaller units than one large sales floor, but there was no retail demand for the first floor space.  It held discussions with various existing occupiers in the centre and JD Sports had a requirement for a new enlarged sports shop as well as a gym. 

House of Fraser had entered administration in 2018 and was brought out by Sports Direct in 2019 which closed 31 of the 59 stores across the UK. In December 2021, Sports Direct issued notice to the centre owners it intended closing the Cwmbran store. 

The building had began life as David Evans Department Store in 1964, as Gwent Square and the Cwmbran Shopping Centre were developed, and it became part of House of Fraser in 1977.

Posted inUncategorized

Plans for new gym in Cwmbran town centre confirmed