Weston struggles in high street rental battle

Weston High Street.

Weston High Street. - Credit: Archant

WESTON’S high street has been labelled one of the worst performing in the South West following a report looking into rents.

The town has seen a ‘significant’ decline in rental rates over the past five years according to real estate leaders Colliers International (CI).

Tim Davies, head of its Bristol office, said the drop in performance was largely linked with parking charges and a lack of flexibility in changing the use of shops.

CI reports there has been a 13 per cent drop in revenue since 2008, putting Weston on a par with areas such as Yeovil and Taunton.

Several big name retailers such as Jessops, Topshop, Clarks, Gilesports and Thomas Cook have closed units in the past two years.

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Mr Davies said: “Central Government’s decision to delay the rates revaluation will affect many businesses. There will be a massive knock on effect on those high streets where the decline has been steepest.

“In the meantime local government has largely ignored calls to reduce car parking charges in declining town centres and has not shown sufficient flexibility in changing the use of shops or bringing local stake holders together.”

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Last week the Mercury revealed that North Somerset Council will gain more than £1million from motorists parking in the town this year.

Cllr Elfan Ap Rees, executive member for transport, said the money will be reinvested in road improvements.

The authority has been handed £100,000 in funding following the Mary Portas review of UK high streets.

The money has been earmarked for innovative and creative projects to help inject new life into town centres.

Early grants have gone to market organisers, arts and theatre groups, independent shops and cafés and a food festival.

John Mayer, of Weston’s Federation of Small Businesses, said: “Local small businesses need a level playing field in order that they can compete.

“The Council should be encouraged to use their discretionary powers to bring down the rates for a number of small, independent retail outlets.

“There is probably a very strong argument that retail properties should have their rateable values reassessed to reflect the decline in rental yields.”

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