A HUNTINGDON shopkeeper is calling for the British Heart Foundation to ‘get in the real world’ after the charity threatened to pull out of a deal to move into the town, because of the location of a bin and two benches.
Condje Selim, owner of luxury gift store The Parsley Pot, has accused the charity of wasting time and taxpayers’ money after The Hunts Post revealed that plans to re-open the High Street’s former Marks and Spencers store as a BHF furniture store were on hold over concerns about street furniture.
Speculation that the charity would move into the empty premises has been circulating since October. Hopes were the furniture store, which would sell suites, sofas, beds, wardrobes and electrical goods, would open this spring.
But last month a BHF spokesman said the charity wanted the two wooden benches and bin moved from outside the store because it detracts from the shop front and does not fit with their ‘vision’ for the property.
The spokesman added if their demands were not met, the charity would reconsider its move into the premises. Huntingdonshire District Council, who initially are responsible for street furniture in the town centre, would have to pick up the bill for any changes.
Miss Selim urged BHF to drop their demands as soon as possible or pull out of the deal completely.
She said: “Firstly I would like to see BHF occupy the former M&S store, as an occupied unit is far better than an empty unit. However, I do feel that their demands are quite frankly petty and time-consuming.
“I do really think that in these desperate times, BHF are causing a problem when there really isn’t one. Just move your ‘vision’ BHF and get back to practicalities. Your demands are ridiculous - just get in or get out.”
Mrs Selim, who has owned The Parsley Pot for eight years, said she wanted the store to be occupied so footfall will increase at that end of the High Street.
She said trade has suffered since the closure of the Marks and Spencers food store in March 2009. The Parsley Pot has been trading in the same spot for 30 years.
Miss Selim said: “I am finding it very hard to stay afloat. People used to walk down into M&S and come into me to get their gifts. They are not doing that anymore. They are going to St Neots.”
An HDC spokesman said a site visit between officers and charity representatives had taken place, but negotiations were still ongoing. “It is still under consideration. We are working hard to find a solution. At this stage, it cannot be rushed.”
There are currently 14 empty units and five charity stores in the town centre.