Herald Opinion: Seaside area is still in need of assistance

As a dose of retail therapy, what better news to come Eastbourne’s way this week than a glimpse of what the Arndale Centre could look like after its £65m makeover.

And what an antidote to the worrying headlines of the past month with the loss of a number of small retailers, and the uncertain futures of TJ Hughes and Thorntons - and maybe CarpetRight.

The country is littered with shopping centre redevelopments that never got off the ground but as the saying goes, where there’s a will, there’s a way. And there appeared to be plenty of willingness around the plan unveiled today.

Developers PRLP, investor Legal and General, and the borough council all talked confidently of the strong demand for new retail space in the town, and of the Arndale revamp acting as a catalyst to attract additional investment and regeneration.

Maybe it’s fanciful to expect John Lewis to come bounding into town but some 20 new shops - and up to 500 new jobs - would be a tremendous boost, offering top quality space to new outlets and room for expansion for existing ones.

Throw into the melting pot the demise of Diesel Alley and pedestrianisation of the stretch of road from the current Arndale entrance to the Gildredge pub, and surely we have a receipe for a town centre that Eastbourne is deserving of.

However, the project must be properly thought through. The long overdue relocation of the buses will need sensitive handling. Welcome move that it is, some people - including many passengers - will not initially share the excitement over a fully pedestrianised area. And let’s spare some thought for the traders at the top end of Terminus Road.

Already faced with the potential loss of TJ Hughes, they will view this plan with some concern at the prospect of more trade being pulled towards the rail station end of town. All of which makes securing a successor to TJ Hughes absolutely essential along with other measures to attract trade back towards the seafront.

And for all its improvements, the Seaside area is still in need of assistance.

All that said, the shoppers’ lot looks a lot brighter if this exciting plan can overcome its hurdles.