What kind of impression does this send out?

'We are here to help local businesses grow, deliver services and promote North Somerset as a prosperous location for investment' – so says the economic development mission statement on North Somerset Council's website.

We are here to help local businesses grow, deliver services and promote North Somerset as a prosperous location for investment" - so says the economic development mission statement on North Somerset Council's website.

An admirable goal - but one which seems to be at loggerheads with the council's opposition to a major national retailer's bid to come to Weston.

Laura Ashley this week pulled the plug on its plan to open a branch in Marchfield Way, after the council's deputy leader expressed 'concerns' over the idea.

Apparently, Cllr Elfan Ap Rees' fear was that 'retail use of this type weakens the town centre'.


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Of course, we all want to see a vibrant, thriving town centre, but how does blocking national chains from coming to Weston help achieve it?

More shops means more customers, while more investors now will make the town more appealing to potential investors in the future.

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Yet we've driven Laura Ashley away - and instead of a major new shop for residents and visitors, we're left with another building lying empty at a key gateway site.

Cllr Ap Rees goes on to say he feels allowing the clothes chain to move into the former Comet outlet would 'introduce inappropriate town centre retail to this site'.

Let us not forget that the site in question is just a stone's throw from a substantial out-of-town Next store - and Next's product range is hardly a huge departure from what would have been offered by Laura Ashley.

The chain's representatives told the Mercury this week: "The application was withdrawn because of the council's concerns. It was seen as unlikely it would be approved."

At a time when the council is showcasing radical plans to revamp huge areas of Weston - with acres of land earmarked for new business and retail, potentially linking the town centre to this site - what kind of impression does this sent out to other firms looking to bring business to Weston?

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