What should happen to vacant shops in Weston-super-Mare town centre?

The vacant TJ Hughes building.

The vacant TJ Hughes building. - Credit: Archant

Long-term vacant business units in Weston-super-Mare town centre should be used for community projects, according to a North Somerset councillor and businessman.

The vacant BHS unit in the High Street.

The vacant BHS unit in the High Street. - Credit: Archant

Central ward councillor Richard Nightingale believes owners of vacant units should be ‘shamed’ and hand empty retail spaces to community projects for an interim period to bring them into use.

There are several vacant units in central Weston, including flagship High Street properties formerly occupied by TJ Hughes and BHS.

Cllr Nightingale said: “These people should be shamed. We should say ‘you have kept that place empty for too long, you should hand it over to community use’.

“Hopefully that will spur them into action and get the buildings into use. Otherwise they are a blot on the landscape.”

Central ward councillor Richard Nightingale. (Picture: Mark Atherton)

Central ward councillor Richard Nightingale. (Picture: Mark Atherton) - Credit: Archant

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Cllr Nightingale believes the council’s town centre regeneration policy will have a positive impact on the High Street.

He said: “There is no doubt there are big changes taking place in the town centre, as millions of pounds of investment pour into the area.

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“The effect of some of these changes will be seen immediately and others lay the foundation for long-term regeneration, the benefit of which will be more obvious in years to come.

“Looking ahead, given the investment, I am sure Weston will not have any vacant retail space, but sadly at the moment we do.

“If this regeneration is to be successful it’s important that both private and public sector work together in collaboration. That includes the owners of disused buildings, especially in prime sites like the High Street.”

Fellow Central ward councillor Mike Bell said ‘innovative’ solutions are required to fill the town’s vacant units.

He added: “Empty shops don’t look good on any high street – they tell a tale of a declining retail market, not a growing one.

“A lot of this reflects changing shopping habits, of course, but it is also a sign that the town centre as a retail focus hasn’t always had the support it needs.

“Splitting or combining units to create more multi-use space or bigger impact stores needs to be encouraged.

“We need to look at offering business rates and rent incentives to encourage new occupiers where they add to the mix.”

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