Shops must be ‘niche’ to revitalise High Street, say readers reacting to Sovereign Centre sale

Weston's Sovereign Centre.

Weston's Sovereign Centre. - Credit: Archant

Weston-super-Mare needs to create a ‘unique and unusual’ retail identity for the town centre to thrive, according to social media users reacting to the views of a business boss on North Somerset Council’s multi-million-pound acquisition of the Sovereign Shopping Centre.

Paul Batts, chairman of Weston Business Improvement District (BID), believes the £21million agreement between the authority and Legal & General to buy the shopping centre is a positive move for town centre traders.

The council, which is struggling with declining funding from Government, hopes to make more than £1million a year from the deal.

Mr Batts admitted the move has ‘divided’ business owners, but he believes it makes sense for the council and the town.

He said: “You can see the long-term plan as councils all over the country lose revenue from the Government and councils need to find their own revenue streams.

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“Given a choice, would you rather the Sovereign Centre was owned by the council or by some hedge fund in London which doesn’t care?

“You’d probably say it is better being run locally, rather than by a portfolio which might lose interest in a few years.

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“Long-term, it has to be better for Weston. The council has a vested interest in making the shopping centre work.”

Many people took to social media to share their view.

Bob Villefin commented: “The reason big corporations offload places like Weston is they don’t make enough money these days. They’ve seen the future of retail is in decline against the online threat.

“My vision would be an area of very niche shops like Hill road in Clevedon, but on a larger scale, so that the town becomes known as the go to place for the unique and unusual. High rents will not make this possible.”

Matt Rodda said: “I think Weston needs to make a name for itself, and not have a High Street that looks like every other high street in the land. Could we put pressure on the council to keep rents low?”

Janis Deville-Hallam wrote: “If they lowered the rents of the units they would fill more of them, thus making more money instead of no money from empty units because business can’t afford the high rents.”

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