The Village Guildford closure: ‘It’s such a shame’ say traders left heartbroken by sudden closure

December 7, 2017
By

Traders who set up shop at Guildford‘s doomed pop-up “village” have been left disappointed after the council decided to withdraw funding and shut it down for good.

Guildford Borough Council was expected to simply reduce funding for The Village Guildford during a meeting on Tuesday (December 5) and keep it open until 2019.

But councillors decided to withdraw all funding for the project, which has already cost £1.2 million, and close it on Christmas Eve – just 12 months after it opened.

The following day, the 16 on-site retailers at The Village Guildford were informed about the surprise closure and told the ice rink had been shut down after operator Blue Martini Group pulled out.

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The Village Guildford axed

The closure of the popular ice rink is believed to have resulted in six job losses.

Like many other traders, Gill Spain, owner of Christmas Pie Crafts, only set up shop inside the pop-up village three weeks ago.

“Before I arrived, I was advised it would be here for at least a further three years, with the possibility of another two years after that,” she said.

“It’s a real blow. Even though I had only planned to be here until Christmas Eve, I hoped it would be something I could repeat and come back and do next year.”

Cost of the project

Guildford Borough Council

Ms Spain continued: “They told us today and told us the very disappointing news about the ice rink. It’s going to affect all of us, as it’s a very popular attraction.

“Last week it was very busy, because of the ice rink. It’s very popular with families and with the schools closing soon I think it’s I think it’s going to be a big loss.

“But we’re all hoping we can do very well up until Christmas, no matter what happens.”

The Village Guildford will shut after just a year
(Image: Laura Nightingale)

Jeanette Farr, who runs Far Better Clothing, believes The Village Guildford would have flourished if there had been an effective marketing strategy and better communication among the traders.

“I think they should have publicised it and pushed it out more,” she said. “Plus, if they call it a village, then we should have had weekly meetings with them [the management].

“They would have found out what was going, who was making money and who wasn’t, what we were happy with and what we weren’t happy with.

“At the end of the day, if they can’t continue I’ll keep doing my thing. But it’s a shame because they put so much time and effort into it – they don’t seem to give two hoots.”

Far Better Clothing in The Village Guildford is among the firms affected

Emma Hampshire, who runs The Timeless Lampshade, also set up her store three weeks ago and was left disappointed by the surprise announcement.

“I’ve found it to be a very positive experience and I’m disappointed, especially as Guildford Borough Council pulled out all the stops over Christmas,” she said.

“I’m really disappointed about the ice rink too, that’s one of the main reasons why I wanted to come here and trade. It’s a real pull. I have had people come and say how wonderful the ice rink is, but it’s melted now.”

She added: “I have found my three weeks here really positive. It’s such a shame it hasn’t continued and the ice rink operator has pulled out. I would be back here next year if it continued.

“I’m going to continue here until Christmas because we’re part of a family here. I’m hoping people will continue to come and support us.”

‘I can’t even pay my rent now’

Lee Jarrett worked as an ice rink marshal at the pop-up village and he voluntary promoted the facility at schools in Guildford, Aldershot and Woking before the surprise closure.

He said: “There’s about six of us who have lost our jobs unexpectedly. I asked them what was going on and they said we’re closing down because we’re not making enough money and puling out.

The whole project cost taxpayers around £1.2m
(Image: Darren Pepe)

“It’s a struggle [to find a new job] at the moment, because it’s only temp jobs that people are offering. This job was going to pay for Christmas presents for all my friends and family. But I can’t even pay my rent now.”

Blue Martini Group has been contacted for a comment.

Time Line

The Village Guildford


  1. June 26, 2016

    Guildford Borough Council announced plans to build a ‘pop-up village’ by October 2016.

    A council spokesman said: “It will benefit the whole town centre – pop-up villages in other towns and cities have been successful in supporting new businesses and shops and attracting more visitors.”


  2. June 28 2016

    The ‘pop-up’ village was provisionally approved by the borough council.

    The council anticipated that a 30-container scheme would generate a total income of £695,000 over a two-year period based on an average 80% occupancy.


  3. August 2016

    Surrey Police raised concerns about the staggered design of the containers creating “hotspots for antisocial behaviour.”

    “Due to the lack of natural surveillance this would make the rear of the container vulnerable to attack,” the police response states.

    Despite this, the pop-up village gained planning permission.


  4. November 2016

    The opening date of the eagerly awaited pop-up village was announced.

    The council was confident it would open on November 28.


  5. December 2016

    Guildford Pop-Up Village was opened by the then Mayor of Guildford Gordon Jackson.

    The grand opening was delayed by three days due to bad weather.

    Councillors were confident it would stimulate the town’s economy.


  6. January 2017

    The council announced plans to close the pop-up village temporarily, after concerns were raised about a distinct lack of visitors.

    It said that Guildford Pop-Up Village would reopen in the Spring after various improvements were made.


  7. June 2017

    It reopened as The Village Guildford after being rebranded.

    The reopening event featured a giant puppet called ‘Eartha’ Queen of the earth and characters from Alice Through the Looking Glass.

    More than 5,000 people attended the reopening event.

    The council said it would no longer be described as a pop-up village as it would offer long-term opportunities in a “flexible, different space” for retailers and traders.


  8. June 2017

    It was revealed that the council had spent £90,000 on rebranding The Village Guildford.

    The council also admitted another £149,000 could be spent on the project.


  9. November 2017

    A council report said estimated levels of income and expenditure on the project were “unrealistic and unachievable”.

    The document also said the council decided to close The Village Guildford temporarily after “business deteriorated rapidly” in January.


  10. November 2017

    The council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee recommended that an exit strategy should be drawn up.

    It was also revealed that the project had cost council tax payers over £1.2 million.

    One councillor described it as a “sunk cost” and said it was time to “cut your losses”.


  11. December 2017

    The council decides to shut The Village Guildford and withdraw all funding, just 12 months after it opened.

    The ice rink was also closed down, after the operator pulled out.

    Councillor David Bilbe said the “achievements so far are not enough to justify continuing with this new enterprise”.

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Article source: http://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/surrey-news/village-guildford-closure-its-shame-14001988


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