Flex­i­bil­ity is key to keep town ac­tive

Gloucestershire Echo - - LETTERS & OPINION -

HOW many shops do we need in Cheltenham? Well it’s a dif­fi­cult ques­tion to an­swer and could be chang­ing by the day.

We’ve seen again in the last few weeks, that many of the ma­jor re­tail­ers are strug­gling and clos­ing stores across the coun­try.

Cheltenham isn’t im­mune from this, although we have ben­e­fit­ted from new stores open­ing as well. Clearly the huge in­crease in on-line shop­ping has put pres­sure on tra­di­tional shops and that isn’t go­ing to go away.

How­ever, one thing that should be done is a re­bal­anc­ing of busi­ness rates.

Cur­rently town cen­tre lo­ca­tions, such as Cheltenham’s main shop­ping area, pay much higher busi­ness rates than other ar­eas.

This adds to the costs of phys­i­cally run­ning a shop in the cen­tre when com­pared to an on-line only busi­ness us­ing an out of town ware­house.

How­ever, since busi­ness rates are set na­tion­ally this is some­thing cen­tral government needs to ad­dress.

Lo­cally the coun­cil is look­ing at the plan­ning rules. In pre­vi­ous years the lo­cal plan pro­tected the cen­tral shop­ping area from other uses how­ever Cheltenham has been suc­cess­fully en­cour­ag­ing a more di­verse mix of uses in­clud­ing leisure, food & bev­er­age, em­ploy­ment and homes.

The ar­rival of SLG at the Brew­ery was very wel­comed and we look for­ward to the open­ing of Hub8 in Septem­ber.

The coun­cil is also work­ing with oth­ers such as the BID and the newly cre­ated Mar­ket­ing Cheltenham team, un­der the ban­ner of ‘Cheltenham the Fes­ti­val Town,’ to make sure there are many events go­ing on that are at­trac­tive for both res­i­dents and vis­i­tors. All of this is help­ing to keep the town cen­tre a pop­u­lar and pleas­ant place to be.

We are also keen to fur­ther ex­plore po­ten­tial al­ter­na­tives to re­tail and will be ac­tively sup­port­ing an event be­ing hosted by lo­cal firms Evans Jones and Roberts Lim­brick – The Cheltenham Prop­erty Fo­rum - The Fu­ture of the High Street on Septem­ber 19.

So while I wouldn’t claim to know how many shops will be needed in fu­ture, it is clear that a flexible ap­proach will be needed to main­tain a vi­brant town cen­tre.

Coun­cil­lor Steve Jor­dan Leader, Cheltenham Bor­ough Coun­cil

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