Shoppers have had their say on what could be next for Aklu Plaza in Romford after its founder ended his lease.

The shopping mall, which replaced Debenhams in Market Place in 2022, is now almost empty.

Next week the new leaseholder is expected to come in, former leaseholder and mall founder Aklu Miah said this week after his lease ended on December 31, 2023.

We visited Aklu Plaza on Friday (January 19) and found all but two stores still operating: food retailer Kacha Bazar and a hair and beauty salon which is just taking appointments.

Shoppers in and around Romford Market had different views on what they would like to see next at Aklu Plaza.

Mohammed Ali, who has lived in Elm Park for the last five years, said education and community cohesion should be the priority as people grapple with the cost-of-living crisis.

Romford Recorder: Much of Aklu Plaza was seen to be emptyMuch of Aklu Plaza was seen to be empty (Image: George Hayes)


"In the current climate no one has any money to spend," he said. "When we go out now it's more of a luxury and people's funds are limited.

"Maybe an arts and crafts centre for families," Mohammed suggested.

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Jannine Wynne felt Romford would benefit from a department store to replace Debenhams, which closed in November 2021.

"A John Lewis would be my favourite [choice]," Jannine said. "But them coming to Romford would be a bit optimistic.

"People talk about community spaces, hubs for this and that, but I don't think they work."

Jannine said her husband remembers the building before Debenhams when it was Stone's, once Romford's biggest department store.

She said they were not keen to go to Lakeside Shopping Centre in Essex, instead hoping for a store in Romford to buy household items.

A third shopper we spoke to, who said he worked at Romford Market as a child, had a different idea.

"I'd say something for the homeless - a homeless charity would be perfect," he suggested.