THE former Woolworths store in Wrexham has been sold to a private development firm and the hunt is now on to find a suitable retailer to occupy the 25,000 square foot building, which has been empty for two years.

The store on Hope Street closed its doors for the final time in January, 2009.

It was one of hundreds of Woolworths branches across the UK which were shut down when the high street giant went bust with debts of £385 million at the end of the previous year.

While other stores have been given a new lease of life after finding new tenants, the Wrexham premises – one of the town’s largest retail areas – has lain empty and derelict due to a number of water bursts and small fires and it has recently been illegally occupied by squatters.

At yesterday’s meeting of the Wrexham Town Centre Forum, it was revealed that the store had at last found a new buyer.

Town centre manager Isobel Watson said it had recently been sold at auction, for an undisclosed sum, to a nationally-based development company.

She added: “It was sold at auction and a private company has bought it.

“This is very interesting news. I can’t say at the moment who they are.

“Their surveyors have been in there to have a look around and there are various options for what they can do with it.

“They will not be the occupiers and they will now look to attract a tenant.

“I wouldn’t like anyone to think it will be opening again next week because there are some problems with it, such as asbestos.

“There have also been squatters in there recently.”

Dan Oliver, from the Chester office of chartered surveyors Legat Owen, which has been marketing the building, said: “Details of the sale are now being finalised.

“The buyer is a property company but I cannot say which one it is.

“When the sale is finalised they will offer the premises on lease.

“I know there have been discussions with potential leasees going on. It is difficult to say how long it will take for a tenant to be found.”

He added: “We have tried to make the premises as safe as possible but there has been a problem with vagrants getting in.

“It is suspected that there is asbestos in there but that is the case with many buildings over a certain age.

“We are trying to get a better idea of the extent of the asbestos.”

Cllr Rodney Skelland, Wrexham Council’s lead member for regeneration and corporate governance, said: “I can’t say too much about the sale because it is still in negotiations, but I am very pleased that something is going to be done with the site at long last.

“However, I think it will be a while before anything happens there.

“Gradually, the buildings and units in the town centre are starting to look up and are being sold.”

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