The Wokingham Paper

Former Argos store in Wokingham could be turned into a gym with a café

Argos
Wokingham's Argos branch

A GYM with a coffee shop is being mooted for a vacant Wokingham town centre site. 

Last year, catalogue retailer Argos moved out of its premises in The Plaza, and now a planning application has been lodged with Wokingham Borough Council in a bid to change its use from retail to health and fitness. 

Site owner AVIVA Life and Pensions has made the request stating in its application that “following a detailed search, a prospective tenant has been secured for the building”. 

It anticipates that there would not be any external alterations except for signage, which would be subject to separate planning permission. 

However, inside, the former Argos – which was once a Tesco – would be converted from a shop into a gym, run by an unnamed operator.

It would include a reception and front desk area, a cafe and lounge area, a multi-functional area, space for free weights and cardio equipment, a studio and changing facilities.

If approval is granted, it will be open from 6am to 11pm on weekdays and 8am to 8pm at weekends. 

The site will remain next to Giggling Squid and is around the corner from the Nuffield Health-run gym. 

It will also be around the corner from the Elms Field development, which will include a dessert parlour and a children’s soft play area. 

The application notes that the store had been marketed since February last year but had “received extremely limited interest from Class A1 retailers (shops)”. It cited the low footfall due to its location, and that a charity had expressed an interest but had not gone ahead. The report also notes that an unnamed soft play centre had viewed the property twice, but decided to locate elsewhere. 

The lack of window space was also raised as an issue for any potential retail outlets. 

“The unit is on the very edge of the primary shopping frontage and the marketing has demonstrated that the unit is not suitable for a Class A1 retailer due to the limited frontage and passing footfall,” the report notes. 

“The proposed use as a health and fitness facility does not rely solely on passing trade and does not require a large frontage. It can therefore successfully trade from the unit.”

And backing up the application, a letter in the planning pack from Hal Clarke, associate director or Colliers International, notes: “In our professional opinion due to the wider issues impacting the retail market, this property is unsuitable for the A1 market and would likely sit vacant for a number of years if the landlord is not able to progress this letting to the gym.” 

Consultation on the site opened on Tuesday, and closes on Tuesday, February 25. 

The plan, which is application 200224, can be seen at planning.wokingham.gov.uk

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