THE man who has taken over the reins of a shopping centre says he has high hopes for 2012.
Barry Parnell started as the new manager at Castle Dene Shopping Centre, in Peterlee, last Monday.
The 53-year-old revealed new shops are on the way and says he is confident the town centre could be the destination for people from east Durham – and beyond – to shop and there should be no need for them to travel elsewhere.
Mr Parnell said: “I’m really excited by the challenge and the opportunities that the role has to offer.
“Everybody here seems to be keen and enthusiastic, the same as me. “We all want to see an even better centre – because I think the people of Peterlee deserve it.
“We are forever in the doldrums, but I think there are positives on the horizon and we are going to be at the forefront of it. “I know new retailers are coming to the town and hopefully that will be the catalyst to improve the shopping centre even further.
“Peterlee could well be the place in 2012.”
The Middlesbrough-born manager, who lives in Ingleby Barwick, said the centre, which has around 130 shops, was reaping the benefits of a rebranding scheme.
He added: “I think people who haven’t been here for years will be extremely surprised because a lot of money has been invested.”
Mr Parnell, who previously worked in management at Middlesbrough’s Hill Street Shopping Centre, said centre owners Salford Estates, who have been granted planning permission for a new 86,000sq ft store, a new youth centre and health centre, “are looking to develop the centre further which is exactly what I want to see”.
He added: “The people who own the shopping centre have got a vision and it’s a vision that I match.”
Mr Parnell, who is married to Alison and has a 21-year-old daughter called Louise, compared Peterlee town centre to his previous role in Middlesbrough.
“Middlesbrough was a covered centre and we had three other shopping centres within yards of each other,” he said. “It excites me because we are the only shopping centre here – we are the offer for Peterlee and the surrounding areas.
“Instead of the people of Peterlee going to other shopping centres as a destination to shop, I want everything to be here within their own town because the retail community in Peterlee need the support of the people of Peterlee and its neighbours in order to thrive and move forward.
“I think we have got a good mix of tenants and I believe in years to come, people are going to see an even better retail offer.”
He admitted tough financial times had taken their toll on the region, but said while some traders are finding it tough, others are thriving.
Mr Parnell’s appointment comes after former centre manager Mike Weston left the job after being cleared of a theft allegation.