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Wednesday, 23 April 2014

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Carlisle council vow to keep High Street alive

Carlisle City Council says it will do everything it can to keep shopping on the high street alive.

Benetton shop photo
Carlisle's Benetton store

Since the start of the year, Past Times retro gift shop on English Street and Hawkins Bazaar have closed. The Yoko Fish Spa in The Lanes has also now closed, leaving another empty unit to fill.

This week, Jaeger announced it will close its Carlisle shop in June and, a day later, fashion retailer Benetton, at Greenmarket, revealed it was closing too.

Collapsed retailer Peacocks, which has a shop in The Lanes, is moving in on new ownership after administrators KPMG said they were “swamped with interest” in all or part of the business.

Underwear store La Senza was saved after being taken over by the Alshaya Group.

The city council says it will look at incentives such as developing proposals for a Business Improvement District (BID) and reducing or freezing car parking charges.

To establish a BID, businesses would have to pay higher rates.

It can only be set up if the majority of the businesses affected support the idea in a referendum.

The scheme would create a not-for-profit company to market the city centre, run events and, the council says, “improve the trading environment”.

The council is consulting businesses this month and next on the benefits of a BID, with a view to publishing a draft business plan in March.

Marilyn Bowman, portfolio holder for economic development, said: “I am very supportive of all businesses and particularly the small, niche ones.

“It is sad to hear of more retailers closing. We want to do everything we can in this city to keep shops open.

“The problems stem from the global economic situation – it’s affecting the big names.

“Current initiatives include closer working with the private sector to develop proposals for a city centre BID.

“This is designed to foster a stronger and more formal relationship between the city council and business owners, resulting in better marketing of the city centre, continuation of a strong events programme, and ensuring a safe, accessible and welcoming city centre that people come to by choice.”

Carlisle MP John Stevenson said the city must not become “unduly pessimistic” after the shop closures.

He said: “While we have seen some shops close, others have opened, like Hotter Shoes, White Stuff and the new Bocata deli at the corner of the Lowther Arcade and Lowther Street.

“This is a sign that these companies do see Carlisle as a place to do business.

“We are in difficult economic times and it’s hard for some retailers. But there are opportunities.

“I think the area around the Old Town Hall, which is home to Jaeger and Benetton, has an opportunity to develop its night time economy.

“The city council’s idea for a BID is exactly the right thing to do. Carlisle needs to encourage more tourism.

“Ultimately this is not just a local issue, it’s a national one. What we must do is get confidence back.”

The city’s current growth area centred around Carlisle Arcade, including Warwick Road, Lowther Street and Devonshire Street.

The Arcade had a £50,000 makeover, which included repainting and cleaning the roof glazing.

Stephen Sewell, a director of managing agent Walton Goodland, which looks after the Arcade, said: “This part of the city centre has picked up. It’s more affordable than English Street and Scotch Street, where rents are higher.”

Out-of-town shopping is also on the up. Toys ‘R’ Us announced it was staying in the city after opening a temporary Christmas pop-up shop. Next Home is pushing ahead with its plans for an out-of-town store at Kingstown and Wynsors World of Shoes will bring 15 jobs to the city when it opens in Shaddongate in March.

The UK has been warned it is now officially at risk of going into a double-dip recession.

The latest figures on the economy show a slight contraction in output, raising the nation’s fears of a second economic downturn.

Have your say

Listen guys, ive read your letters, can anyone else have a say in this debate.every town in the uk has empty shops.so stop calling carlisle.

Posted by delboy on 8 March 2012 at 15:18

Dave Evans, What a pathetic comparison that is.

1.6 million people in the Newcastle urban area and you compare it with Carlisle, a city of 105,000.

No wonder there are more amenities in the North East.

Posted by Mike Sansom on 10 February 2012 at 11:33

View all 21 comments on this article

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