Group aims to help struggling traders

PUBLISHED: 15:00 29 January 2012

Weston's High Street

Weston's High Street

Archant

A WORKING party will be set up by North Somerset Council to investigate ways to help independent traders stay in business.

The authority’s strategic planning and economic development policy and scrutiny panel (SPED) discussed the plight of the district’s town centres during a meeting on Monday.

This stemmed from a request made by Councillor David Shopland for the authority to investigate the possibility of limiting the number of charity shops and takeaways in shopping areas.

However, a report to the meeting explained that North Somerset has little control over the number and location of charity shops due to the class system used to define the use of commercial premises. Charity shops are classed as A1 shops, just the same as any other retail outlet.

The report also showed that, as of April 2011, the number of charity shops and takeaways in Weston’s town centre had hardly changed since 2008.

However, Cllr Jan Barber said: “The perception of residents is that there are more charity shops and takeaways.”

Cllr Shopland added: “Charity shops and takeaways serve a certain public need but all things are only good in moderation.”

In his report to the committee, council officer Graham Quick said: “Many of the concerns arising from the growth of charity shops and takeaways is the poor image they portray for town centres. This is then perceived as a symptom of the gradual decline of town centres.”

As part of discussions on how the council could prevent the decline of town centres, Cllr Terry Porter said efforts should be made to improve the look of any empty units.

Cllr Mark Canniford said planning policy should be altered to make it easier for town centre development to take place and also said the council should be doing more to ‘embrace’ the trade organisations in its towns.

Following discussions, the SPED panel agreed to set up a working party to look at the council’s approach to retail in response to the concerns of the public and retailers.

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