Caerphilly Business Forum blog: Looking after our town centres is looking after ourselves
According to the national media last month, Christmas wasn’t as bad as many retailers feared. They then went on to cite anecdotal evidence for this from “some of the biggest names on the High Street”.
Unfortunately, such sweeping statements increasingly miss the reality facing many retailers and even communities.
Most retailers are not “one of the biggest names on the High Street” which by definition are huge, nationwide or even international brands rather than small, independent stores or chains. And often the big names are no longer on the High Street but in an out-of-town retail development.
In the last couple of weeks, two important reports have highlighted the problems facing our High Streets.
First the National Assembly’s Enterprise and Business Committee flagged up out-of-town developments, rising business rates and town-centre car-parking charges as among the main problems and called for a better co-ordinated policy to combat them and rescue our ailing town centres.
Then, earlier this week, a report by the Local Data Company predicted High Street occupancy rates across the UK will fall this year. The UK average has one-in-seven High Street premises standing empty.
Pleasingly, the Assembly report holds up Caerphilly as a model for others to copy after a conscious effort was made to attract businesses to the town centre by creating more attractive conditions. Up the road in Bargoed the regeneration, although still in progress, has made a remarkable difference and other towns in the county borough are being enhanced.
The local authority hopes this approach will attract new investment and help existing businesses as well as bringing the community back into our town centres to create a vibrant and pleasant environment.
But we can’t just leave it to the local authority to do this. We need to support our town centres in every way we can. They have a profound effect on the health of our communities.
Looking after them is looking after ourselves.
Chairman, Caerphilly Business Forum