Loughborough's Carillon Court left slowly dying as more shops are shuttered

Carillon Court in Loughborough
-Credit: (Image: Leicester Mercury)

In the once thriving Carillon Court Shopping Centre in Loughborough, ‘where have all the shops gone?’ or ‘I wish they kept the shops’ appears to be a constant refrain. Although WHSmith, New Look, Boots and Tylers are still keeping people coming into the centre, the Carillon is in the worst state I can remember.

I counted 17 empty units - which is just under half of the entire centre - that were either for let or simply the remains of a former business with its shutters pulled down. The Body Shop, Birds, Grape Tree, and The Repair Hub have all left Carillon Court in recent months for different reasons.

The numbers don’t do it justice, the shopping centre feels eerily quiet and even run down in places. Speaking to residents in Loughborough about what I saw, one went so far as to call it “filthy”.

READ MORE: Businesses forced to leave Loughborough shopping centre

Inside the Carillon Court
A number of businesses have moved out of the centre into other locations in Loughborough -Credit:Leicester Mercury

The rumour on the Loughborough streets is that the owners of the complex want to turn it into student flats; however, no planning application has ever been submitted. LeicestershireLive approached the letting agents that work on behalf of the owners but did not receive a response.

Anne Shelton, 57, from Mountsorrel, said: “Loughborough is not the same anymore. My dad used to clean that [Carillon Court] for years. [Now] it's filthy and disgusting.

“I just walked through to get a sandwich and I thought 'wow'. That used to be the busiest precinct.” Denise Dewart, 53, from Loughborough, said: “If that shuts down and they place student flats, it would be rubbish.

“We don’t need any student accommodation, we need shops,” she said. Earlier this year, a number of independent businesses, including Oh Pretty Co, the Repair Hub and a small card kiosk were forced to leave after they were told their leases would not be renewed.

All that’s left of them are the dingy, peeling walls.

The centre looks dingy in places
The centre looks dingy in places -Credit:Leicester Mercury

Ned Royston, 66, a former truck driver, is “Shelthorpe born and bred”. “These shops have opened and then within a month have closed down again,” he said.

He told me he doesn’t come into town often because of the cost of parking. He said: “I would just get charged through my nose, I don’t bother.

“I cannot afford to pay the sort of money they are asking for. You get a ticket and half of your pension money is wiped out for a week.”

Ned Royston
Ned Royston -Credit:Leicester Mercury

He was resigned to the fact that the centre was a dead-man walking. “It’s obvious, these will be gone,” as he gestured to the remaining shops.

“It’s obvious that the people who have bought it, it's not going to be good for the locals. I remember when this was built, I used to

drink down in the Green Man

when I was younger”.

Stuart Morrison, 52, lives in the town, and he questioned Loughborough's “selling point”. He said: “It's like everywhere there’s a patch of land they are putting up student flats.

“Students run this town and without the students this place would be in a dire state.” His partner, Tray Morrison, 52, said she had to go out of town for shopping and that they didn’t go out drinking in Loughborough because “no one” was in the pubs.

She said it felt “weird”. “I do go to Tylers a couple of times a month but I cannot remember the last time I went in there [the Carillon],” she said.

Some of the charm remains in the Carillon
Some of the charm remains however -Credit:Leicester Mercury

The centre was built in 1971 and opened a year later. It was refurbished in 1992 to provide a partially-enclosed shopping centre, which still remains today.

Some may argue it has had its time in Loughborough and it's just not drawing the same footfall as it once did. But it really is a shame to see how it has been left to slowly die.

Business owners have questioned whether WHSmith and New Look could be the next to leave. That has never been confirmed by either company.

Whereas a one-dimensional plan of student flats may make financial sense, there is risk in alienating shoppers of different age groups by not offering the town much more than the “charity shops and vape shops” that a lot of people believe make up too much of Loughborough’s high street.

Clearly there is no silver bullet that will ensure the future of the Carillon for generations to come, but look at the new plan for old Beacon Bingo and see how it has the potential to re energise the derelict building. A possible redevelopment for the Carillon should take inspiration from that.

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