Opinion: Making our District Centres Work.

Occasionally we get submissions through our Tell Your Story form, most often businesses trying to promote themselves (which is OK) but take a look at this from twitters, @twistingmy (Telfords Grumpy Old Man):

Telford’s District centres are dying right? Full of Charity shops and Bookmakers, Yes? T&W want to make Telford a hub for business which creates jobs, wealth etc, Kuldip Sahota said as much this week. So why not have a campaign where all the empty retail units are offered at a low rent, with a decent lease to encourage a diverse cross section of shops. It would need managing, but surely T&W have people qualified to do that.

By managing I mean, create a strategy for each district. For example one newsagent, one florists, you get the picture. People will say there will be no competition, really? The centres ares are all linked by a decent road network, Telford people aren’t stupid, they will get to know the cheapest, best quality retailers and it will be up to each independant owner to stay competitive. Some will say that’s not fair on the existing hard working independants, very true, so give rent/rates rebates to those for the same period.

Perhaps a vacancy for a dedicated small business manager exists with a package including phased payback set up costs, low interest set up loans, business plan advice etc. I know that, for example, an independant hardware store will never compete on price against the Wickes and B&Q’s buying power, but get somewhere near and the convenience plus personal service will compensate.

The local people deserve their local centres to be diverse, interesting and buzzing 6/7 days a week, what have T&W got to lose? The shops are empty anyway not bringing in any revenue, charity shops get a massive rebate on their business rates so they are not earning a lot from those. When the industrial estates were set up there was a concerted push with low rents to encourage businesses to come to Telford. The model is already there, it just needs downscaling. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Alan Sugar, but I had a small unit for many years in one of these centres and know what made me give it up; lack of footfall coupled with high overheads. Visit somewhere like York and you get an eclectic mix of National retailers and independants. It can be done. It does seem simple doesn’t it?

What do you think?

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