Shopping quarter rejuvenation

PUBLISHED: 12:00 19 May 2011

Orchard Meadows could be revitalised as a shopping destination

Orchard Meadows could be revitalised as a shopping destination

Archant

AN ‘antiquated’ shopping area within Weston’s town centre could be transformed into an exclusive district for independent retailers.

Orchard Meadows could have thousands of pounds pumped into it through projects aimed at rejuvenating the beleaguered shopping quarter.

Traders who attended a Town Centre Partnership meeting last week about Weston becoming a Business Improvement District (BID) were told that this area could greatly benefit from the scheme.

As reported in the Mercury, the partnership wants the town centre to become a BID in order to attract more shoppers to the resort.

The scheme would see the business community plan, deliver and pay for additional improvements or projects to boost the local economy.

If successful nearly £280,000 would be available in the first 12-months of the five-year scheme to be spent in whatever way traders feel appropriate.

Around 700 businesses would pay into the legally binding scheme – a levy of 1.5 per cent of each business’ rateable value.

BID consultant Lucy Ball told the meeting that a recent BID scheme in Torquay has already seen a range of improvements to the seaside resort including the removal of one million pieces of chewing gum, the setting-up of a street security team and business crime initiative, as well as the launch of several new events.

However, some traders have met the proposals with caution.

Concerns were raised at the meeting that property owners of vacant shops would still have to pay into the scheme, and this would have a big impact in Meadow Street which has 13 empty shops.

The area was described as ‘antiquated’ by one attendee and he said it was struggling to survive because there is ‘too much out-of-town shopping’.

But it was suggested that if nothing was done and there was no investment made, Orchard Meadows would become an ‘empty mess of an area’.

Other concerns voiced were the danger of traffic to shoppers in this area, as well as lack of car parking in the whole town.

Lucy told the group that the ‘collective voice’ of 700 businesses could be strong enough to lobby the council into making important changes.

A consultation with business owners is taking place up until September, a business plan will then be created, and a vote will be held in February 2012 when traders decide whether to opt in or out of the scheme.

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