With the closing date of Carlisle’s Debenham’s store revealed on May 12, many shop owners, residents and townspeople are wondering what will take its place and what it will mean for the future of Carlisle as a whole.

The building has been a landmark to many Cumbrians over the years as a central and integral part of Carlisle’s retail identity.

Debenhams has already announced 52 store closures up to Saturday, May 8, including the Workington store, which closed for the last time on Sunday.

Carlisle City Councillor Paul Nedved, said about the issue: “The closure of Debenhams is not just a blow to our retail market, but 120 others up and down the country and we will be facing the same challenges as them and in the current Covid climate will make it that much tougher. However, I’m extremely confident that we will bounce back.”

The city council, property management and The Lanes management are currently weighing a variety of options to try and find a series of options for the building’s future use.

Cllr Nedved said: “Rest assured we’re leaving no stone unturned to secure the future of the site. There are active discussions taking place between the City Centre Property Management Team and The Lanes Management Team and we’re all working extremely hard to see how best to secure our city’s future.”

About the possible future uses for the building, Cllr Nedved added:

“It’s such a substantial piece of property really and a pivotal part of The Lanes development. A lot of effort will be taken to see how to re-purpose the building.

“It could have a multiplicity of uses, it lends itself to possibly another retail operation or be split into units or it could be a leisure facility.”

Carlisle will be going through a major change and revamp in the near future, the councillor revealed.

The City Council has recently secured funding for The Future High Street Fund (9.7mil) and Towns Deal (19.7mil) and also secured extra funds from the Borderlands, which will see £75m go to developments in the city and the station with a vast range of projects going towards the city centre.

With all the various projects and schemes going forward post-covid for the next few years, Cllr Paul said: “I have immense optimism for our city centre.”

Lucy and Steve Matthews, business owners of Bookends in Carlisle were hard pressed to share in the councillor’s optimism.

About the closure of Debenhams, Lucy said: “It’s always bad news. With big flagship stores like Debenhams or House of Fraser, these are the types of shop which draw people who are travelling to Carlisle for shopping sprees.”

Mrs Matthews said that another big department store may help attract future shoppers to the town. She said: “If a John Lewis was to open or another big retailer that might help, but the worst thing that could happen is if it remains empty and for it to be an eyesore.”

Mr Matthews said: “It’s a part of a wider trend towards online shopping. It’s worrying that with Debenham’s gone and other big department stores it may decrease the trade of other local, surrounding stores. But I believe Carlisle has got very good long-term prospects.”