'Unprecedented interest' floods in as retail village plans take shape
- Credit: The Morbey Family
A couple say they have been inundated with “unprecedented interest” as plans to create a 10-acre retail village begin to take shape.
Alastair and Victoria Morbey are hoping to open Ben’s Yard on Harlocks Farm, Stuntney next spring after their plans were approved by councillors two years ago.
“There is obviously a huge demand around here as it’s very unique,” said Victoria.
“It’s coming along really well.”
Ben’s Yard will consist of roughly 10 acres for the likes of shops, cafés and retail units for small to medium-sized businesses, particularly those from the local area.
Visitors will also be able to use walking trails around a 250-acre area of the farm overlooking the 2,500-acre Stuntney Estate.
A short-term ‘pop-up’ unit will also be made available as part of a six-week lease for smaller businesses who want to launch their first retail outlet.
“In our first campaign last week, it reached around 40,000 people; we’ve had a lot of feedback, applications for units and we are really excited,” said Victoria.
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“There has been unprecedented interest.”
It is thought between 50 and 100 jobs will be created depending on the size of the 14 units planned.
And the couple are aiming for around 250,000 visitors a year, which includes 60,000 people attending events with an average of 400 to 600 visitors a day.
But despite previous concerns of detracting people away from nearby Ely and Soham, Victoria believes Ben’s Yard will instead enhance the area.
“We wanted somewhere else for people to go in support of what’s on offer in, for example Ely, as opposed to a detraction from it,” she said.
“It might be someone coming from outside the area or travelling through Ely to Norfolk or to London.
“We want to be different to what you would normally see on your average high street.”
Both Victoria and Alastair dismissed claims they would look to generate a potential turnover of over £4m next year from Ben’s Yard.
But they want to focus on creating a “much more inclusive” experience for visitors, rather than the financial benefits.
“We are not here to take on the high street,” Alastair said.
Victoria added: “Our strapline is fun for everyone and always as we want to make sure we can accommodate our community.”