A NEW Poundland has been described as a “mixed blessing” for St Ives.

THE last of Huntingdonshire’s empty Woolworths sites will be filled when a new Poundland opens in St Ives.

The multi-national retailer will take over the building in Crown Street nearly two years after Woolworths closed.

The move has received a mixed reaction. Some people are glad a company, which promises to bring 30 jobs to the town, has decided to fill the empty unit, but others worry too many chain stores will ruin St Ives’s independent quality.

Chris Wade, chief executive of the national organisation Action for Market Towns, said: “In terms of wanting to attract shops that appeal to residents and visitors, it might have been nice to have something else.”

However, he said it was a “big space to fill” and added: “Clearly, they think there is a market for customers.

“It will always be a battle but it is much better to see stores moving into the town rather than to the edge of a town,” he said.

Mr Wade said St Ives was trading well and was anything but a clone town bereft of local retailers.

He said: “St Ives is doing quite a lot already with its market. It is quite innovative and does very well for a mix of independent stores in the high street.

“More importantly, it has managed to ­differentiate itself from Huntingdon.

“It is a mixed blessing for St Ives having Poundland move in, but it is great that such premises are occupied.”

Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce chief executive John Bridge said: “The ­priority is to fill empty shops. We want to have as big an offering as we can, so we don’t need any empty premises.”

He said Poundland’s presence in St Ives was no different to having Woolworths in the town before and said: “Investment from bigger companies is a real vote of confidence in the local economy. They wouldn’t be coming here otherwise. It is customer-driven.”

Once the guided bus was up and running, Mr Bridge said, St Ives had a bright future.

“If you can get the volumes of people in, you can grow the town’s offering,” he said. “Both go hand-in-hand.”

He hoped its riverside area would be ­further developed as an attractive focal point for bars, restaurants and areas to socialise.

St Ives Mayor Councillor David Hodge said it was “a good thing to have the shop filled” but cautioned: “We want a variety of shops.”

He fears that some property companies sideline local retailers so national chains can take over their premises and said: “It’s the individual shops that make the difference.

“If you have all the national chains, there could be no difference between the towns if you’re not careful.”

Poundland trading director David Coxon said: “We are delighted to bring our unique proposition to St Ives.”