New Batley Plaza shopping centre set to open after year-long delay
A new-look shopping centre - Batley Plaza - is to open next month after a year-long delay due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Retail property entrepreneur Zahid Iqbal, of Z&F Properties Ltd, bought the centre – previously known as Alfreds’ Way and Batley Shopping Centre – in November 2019.
The 40-year-old centre, built from Commercial Street down to Tesco, proved unpopular in its early days because its steep and sloping floor made it inaccessible to many people. The flooring was also treacherous when wet.
In more recent years, as retailing declined, the centre became increasingly deserted and the last tenant moved out in 2014.
The old covered walkway was used as a shortcut but eventually, in 2016, it was closed to the public because of safety fears and anti-social behaviour.
Now the centre has been transformed and Mr Iqbal has already created and opened a food court with 10 food operators including the popular Dixons Milk Ices, Asian soul food outlet Sibu and burger restaurant BrgrBro.
The main part of the centre has 24 retail units and already 22 are let. The keys are being handed over now and by the time the centre opens in the first or second week of September, all 24 units will have been taken.
A lift has been installed to give full access and a first floor has been added which will become a Mediterranean restaurant. There will also be a coffee shop at ground floor level.
Mr Iqbal, who also owns the successful Bradford Plaza in Thornbury, Bradford, and last month bought the Packhorse Centre in Huddersfield, said he was excited Batley was back on track.
“We bought it in November 2019 but because of Covid we were set back a year,” he said.
“We could not afford for small operators to open and then have to shut down again because of Covid.
“This is a shopping centre for Batley and most of the tenants are Batley people.”
The new shops include clothing, giftware, wedding accessories, bubble tea, a beautician and a hair salon.
Mr Iqbal’s business model involves heavily-discounted rents and he works closely with tenants, who are often first-time businesses, to help them succeed.
Mr Iqbal said Batley town centre had become a leisure destination for people from as far afield as Leeds, Halifax and Huddersfield because of the extensive food offering.
“Twenty years ago Batley had a thriving town centre with shops such as Boots and Woolworths. Now it’s seen a massive change and it’s a leisure destination because of the quality of the food available in town.
“It has reached a tipping point and it’s got over that threshold,” he said.
“People will now drive to Batley because there are a number of places where they will want to go to eat. That’s been the big change for Batley.”