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Brent Cross

Brent Cross is the first large, out of town shopping centre that opened - way before Lakeside and any other imitators.

It opened in 1976 - when it was truly revolutionary, as most shops back then closed at 5pm and had half days during the week. It instantly took off, as it has over 7 million people in its catchment area, and even more drawn to it after a refurbishment in 1995. There are now 110 stores and cafes, with many of the original retailers still trading. John Lewis, Fenwick, Marks and Spencer, Boots and WH Smith are just some of the household names here, and newer names have sprang up like Zara, Next and Envy.

It feels like a very small place to wander round in, and although I am told there are 110 shops - it certainly didn't feel like there was! There were two floors, and not many people when I was there, although it can get packed on a weekend. Costa Coffee and Starbucks were thoughtfully positioned at either end of the escalators, and there were many benches provided to sit down and take a rest. Security was good; in fact as I was there security quickly removed a nutter that started shouting on the top floor - he didn't even have time to finish his sentence! A good thing was that nearly all of the shops were huge, with a full range of clothes or items on display. I was particularly impressed with Zara - even the one in Regent Street isn't as big!

Hammerson and Standard Life, who are the owners of Brent Cross - want to expand the shopping centre to be even more a force to be reckoned with. It does feel that unless they do, then the shopping crowd may move on to other larger places. This would be a shame for the area as a whole, as there is not a lot going for this part of North London, and at least Brent Cross is a bright patch in the middle of a grimy North Circular.

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