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Stallholders in Megamart determined to plough on
3:21pm Thursday 6th September 2012 in News
A GROUP of traders are standing united in the face of the shock news that their former landlord has disappeared, leaving thousands of pounds of debt.
Mega Mart, based on Dentons Green Lane at the former Glyn Webb site, was opened by the former Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, in May, with room for 70 businesses.
However, soon after the Labour peer cut the ribbon, it was discovered that the former company director Edward Pickering had disappeared, leaving debts estimated to be around £60,000.
It was discovered that Pickering was in fact an alias, and was a disqualified company director called Edward Ward.
The Insolvency Service says that in 2010 Ward was banned from running a company for 12 years following his directorship of Blackhurst & Ward Property Developers Limited, involving hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Now Lord Prescott’s nephew Colin, who was recruited by Pickering as a director, and new director Tim Griffiths, have been left facing the huge debts that are owed to contractors.
It has sparked worries over the long-term future of the indoor shopping centre.
However, Dean Owen, who runs the Heavy Metal Thunder stall in Mega Mart, said the traders remain optimistic.
He said: “All the traders want to trade and they are making a go of it.
“We have the tenacity to see it work.
One minute they are selling spaces, the next minute Ted Ward is no longer there. Mr Prescott took charge and that was it.
“At the minute things are up in the air, but we are all working hard to make it work. Even the creditors want it to work. We are all in this together.”
Mr Owen, 38, said initially there were 70 spaces inside Mega Mart and now about 18 are occupied.
He said: “For some of the businesses that were in here, they have grown and moved into their own shop.
“Initially the mood was despondent. However that has turned into the typical bulldog spirit.
“At the moment it’s a waiting game, but we are still trading and still open for business.”
Vicky Owen, who runs florist Tilly Mint, was equally determined.
She said: “It is a really nice community of traders and we want to fight to keep it open. I’m a single mum, who set up on my own, trying to earn a living.
“We remain positive and want St Helens people to get behind us.”
Gail Blackie, from Victoria Memorials, was a little more disheartened.
She said: “It was buzzing when it first opened, but now the soul has gone out of the place.”
Merseyside Police said they have received a number of enquiries about Ward.
However following his previous business dealings in Bolton, his case is being investigated by Greater Manchester Police.
A spokeswoman from GMP confirmed that Ward has yet to be traced.
The force is keen to speak to him over his business dealings in Bolton and their investigation into him is “ongoing”.
The spokeswoman added: “Police would be interested as to where he is.”