No plans to close Aklu Plaza

The owner of a shopping mall in Romford has said that a proposal for a banqueting hall could be scrapped – but confirmed there are no plans to close the centre.

Aklu Plaza, in Market Place, opened in place of a former Debenhams in November 2021.

A planning application was made to convert the top-most floor into a banqueting suite in January last year, which was approved by Havering Council in February 2023.

The mall shut its flagship Home Superstore on the ground floor months ago, and now owner Aklu Miah has revealed that plans for the banquet hall may not go ahead.

A food retailer, Kacha Bazaar, is still actively trading at the site and so is a large furniture showroom.

A vendor told the Recorder that they have been “struggling” to survive as they say footfall to the mall has dropped after Home Superstore’s closure.

Mr Miah however said the mall is here to stay and said his brother has taken over the management of the site.

He added: “There is no plan to shut it (the mall) down. We are just renegotiating with the landlord and thinking about what to do with it exactly as we haven’t decided yet.”

He added that businesses on the ground floor will remain in place but the floors above will continue to be empty until they have finalised their next move.

Protests by a far-right group, Patriotic Alternative, took place outside the building labelling the mall as “non-European” at the time of its launch in 2021.

These were condemned heavily by Mr Miah, and the then leader of Havering Council Damian White.

There were also reports of the mall’s staff being racially abused during the launch event.

Mr Miah attributed the mall’s struggles to parking problems in the market area.

He said: “The parking outside the building is a bit confusing, it ruined the whole thing. When we opened, we had many people visiting, but then people had to wait around trying to find parking.”