What is the solution?

SHOPS are closing, businesses are struggling, and doom and gloom is the overriding feeling for many traders left in Weston's floundering Orchard Meadows area.

SHOPS are closing, businesses are struggling, and doom and gloom is the overriding feeling for many traders left in Weston's floundering Orchard Meadows area.

A Mercury report this week reveals an astounding 32 shops are currently standing empty in the once-thriving streets, more than the rest of Weston town centre combined.

It's a sad sight for Weston, and one which could have a potentially damaging effect on the whole town if it's left to stagnate and decay.

Issues with parking, huge hikes in business rates, changes to the town layout and the recent recession are all partly to blame, according to traders still gamely battling to keep their heads above water - but what is the solution?


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Town centre manager Steve Townsend thinks he has the answer. He is leading calls for Weston to adopt a Business Improvement District (BID) scheme, which would see traders paying into a central kitty to help improve the area.

New street furniture, better signs, fresh shop fronts, visiting attractions and the recruitment of new shopping wardens would all be funded through the new cash pot - and these are all admirable ideas.

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But small steps should come first. Many traders' bugbear of parking is an issue which desperately needs to be resolved.

One business owner told us this week they have monitored a car which was left in a one-hour bay for five days without receiving a ticket.

We're told about 'days of action' to clampdown on parking in the area - but unless they're followed by strict enforcement, what good to they do?

Another key criticism of the area is that it looks shabby, unkempt and rundown.

Of course, all the shuttered buildings don't help, but additional street cleaning and a lick of paint could work wonders.

Simples steps like these, which would improve the access and aesthetic, could provide a quick, simple solution for the short-term - and the BID project can build upon to restore this neglected area to former glories.

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