Flexibility is key to keep town active
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