One in 10 shops lay empty


With high streets and town centres facing unprecedented challenges across the country as a result of changing consumer behaviour, the latest data shows that one in ten shops in Cheshire East was empty in 2017/18.

Figures included in the council's authority monitoring report 2017/18 show that the borough had an overall town centre retail unit vacancy rate of 10.2% - which was better than the average national vacancy rate of 11.2% for the same period.

In Wilmslow there were 26 units vacant, which represented 9.3% and was the same as the previous year, whilst in Handforth the number of vacant units fell from 7 to 5, making the vacancy rate 6.5%.

However, in Alderley Edge the number of unoccupied units doubled from 3 in 2016/17 to 6 in 2017/8 which represented 6.1%.

Across the borough the vacancy levels at six town centres had reduced since 2016/17 but increased in five town centres compared to the previous year, although in the case of three of these, the 2017/18 level was lower than the equivalent 2015/16 figure.

The lowest vacancy rate of 3.3% was in Knutsford whilst the highest in the borough was 25.8% in Crewe.

Councillor Ainsley Arnold, Cheshire East Council cabinet member for housing, planning and regeneration, said: "While our town centres compare well, we recognise that retailers continue to face significant challenges and that we need to continue to support them.

"Changing behaviours and trends, driven by a range of economic, demographic, social and technological factors, are affecting the prosperity and vibrancy of high streets up and down the country.

"However, this council is fully committed to doing what is within our power to help our high streets survive and thrive and we are continuing to progress a number of initiatives and schemes for our town centres – many of which represent significant investment."

In Cheshire East, there are long-term plans for the borough's two principal towns – Crewe and Macclesfield – to address the challenging retail landscape.

In Crewe, while vacancy levels have risen at the end of 2017 the council began securing vacant possession of all properties within the Royal Arcade, ahead of redevelopment plans for the site.

The redevelopment of the Royal Arcade, which will feature a new eight-screen cinema, gym, restaurants and shops, a multi-storey car park and a new bus station, is part of a £48.3m regeneration programme in the town centre.

Cllr Arnold said: "The council has a clear strategy for regeneration in Crewe and has made a commitment to invest significantly in the town centre, to encourage growth and address the steady decline in footfall.

"Our strategy is based on more leisure uses, better facilities and a higher quality environment – ensuring the town centre diversifies its offer and becomes an attractive place where people not only shop, but choose to spend quality leisure time both during the day and evening."

In Macclesfield, the figures show that the town has the most vacant units in the borough with 53 empty, which represents 9.5%.

The council is pursuing an enhancement scheme for Castle Street and has worked with a consultant team to develop a 'strategic regeneration framework' to guide future efforts to revitalise the town centre.

Cllr Arnold said: "The aim of this strategic regeneration framework is to set out a fresh vision for Macclesfield town centre, focused on its key role in underpinning and driving an exciting and prosperous future for the whole town.

"We won't, however, lose sight of the area's important heritage, sense of place and its individual character, which are held in high regard by local people and visitors alike."



Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.

Nick Jones
Thursday 28th February 2019 at 4:09 pm
Consultation on parking ??? .... Ignored..... putting the cost up for visitors / workers / businesses alike.
CEC Tax rises... aside from landlords / rent...

Why does no one ever listen ??

The question is what initiatives are being brought and by whom for businesses to invest in our town and keep it alive ?
It will be interesting to see come the local elections as' more of the same' just isnt working.
Richard Armstead
Thursday 28th February 2019 at 4:26 pm
Councillor Ainsley Arnold has a blooming cheek and his Northern Planning Committee are duplicitous in they way they make their decisions. Invariably they just follow the Planning Officer’s recommendation. Case in point the Lidl monstrosity presently under construction at Summerfields Village Wilmslow. Councillor Arnold says he is concerned about high street vacancies but the NPC he monitors (?) agreed this Lidl store arguing that this was an ‘in centre’ location and so should be approved. Subsequently Summerfield Village was redesignated a Local Urban Centre but interesting to note that the SADPD later specifically excluded LUC’s as constituting a town centre for planning purposes. While planning committees are unable to weigh local planning policies correctly they are not the decision makers but simply followers of officer recommendations whether properly argued or not. To fain concern for empty town centre retail outlets while these planning mistakes proliferate under his control, Councillor Arnold must be considered totally uninformed and out of touch with reality.
Mark Goldsmith
Friday 1st March 2019 at 9:24 am
So two weeks after CE hike Wilmslows parking charges for the 2nd year running, they now claim they are doing all they can to help our high street.

Well, either they are completely dishonest or else completely stupid. Does ANYONE at CE talk to each other because there is absolutely no sign they do. One side says “We know town centres are struggling”, while the other whacks up parking charges anyway.

So perhaps Cllr Arnold can speak with our local Cllr Don Stockton who heads up CE transport, which was responsible for our parking charge increases.

Further evidence (if any is needed) at how badly CE is being run.
Martin Kitchin
Friday 1st March 2019 at 1:56 pm
Talk about double standards yet again within beleaguered, dis-jointed old Cheshire East!

And this Wilmslow readers, is the very same Clr Ainsley Arnold, Chair of Northern Planning Committee who ignored the advice of Cheshire East's own Urban Design Team to tone down the look of this monstrous new Lidl for something more harmonious.

If Clr Arnold or, for that matter any other member of Northern Planning Committee are in any doubt how unwise they were, then residents urge them to come and look at what they so willingly approved.

They are all very welcome.

You won't miss it and nor sadly do we.

Thanks to Clr Arnold and his committee, residents are stuck with looking at it for decades to come...
Paul Roue
Friday 1st March 2019 at 2:25 pm
It is disgraceful that Cheshire East neither talk to each other nor listen to the advice of their own ‘in house’ design experts.

So what happens?

We are all left with a fragile town centre that is fast becoming far expensive to park in and a huge, ugly, inappropriately big Lidl that is right next to existing homes.

Something tells me it is time for change within Cheshire East.
David Pearce
Friday 1st March 2019 at 5:13 pm
Wilmslow has the potential pedigree to be more upmarket town having a distinctively chic cachet feel about it. What it lacks in architecturally distinctive character with the exception of the artdeco REX building it makes up for with the undeniable wealth & spending power of the local population. As such a mix of retail outlets - both everyday & exclusive - & leisure based attractions sited in & around the centre can be a recipe for a healthy future.

For sure business enterprises in the town will always face various running cost challenges which can finally be unmanagable in some cases leading to closures. The life blood of all such leisure & retail operations is footfall & spending power.

An essential conduit for such life blood in the town is access to convenient and reasonably priced car parking. If this can only be urgently tackled in an imaginative & sympathetic way from what options are on the cards it can be a such big catalyst for the town's future prosperity & attraction as an upmarket place to be.
Manuel Golding
Monday 4th March 2019 at 3:09 pm
It is so heartwarming and encouraging to read yet another CE Conservative talking head speaks through his rear-end; this time and to be fair not the first time,Cllr Arnold chooses to utter sheer rubbish propaganda (i.e. meaningless non-truths) by asserting "However, this council is fully committed to doing what is within our power to help our high streets survive and thrive and we are continuing to progress a number of initiatives and schemes for our town centres – many of which represent significant investment."

The forthcoming massive increases in car parking charges, up to 300% in some cases, clearly shows CEC "is fully committed" to its goal in defending our town centre! If you believe that rubbish you probably believe in fairies at the bottom of your garden.

With friends like Cllr Arnold & his unhearring, unknowing and worst of all, totally uncaring myopic Conservative colleagues, who needs enemies?

The sooner the 2nd May's CEC elections are on us the better; a wholesale clear-out of the inept and unthinking Conservative councillors the better for all in Wilmslow.

Once again, they never fail to demonstrate they have no concerns for the fate of Wilmslow & other towns - 2nd May is the time the voters have the opportunity to say "Conservatives, go".

Residents of Wilmslow will be offering Wilmslow's voters a truly credible alternative as RoW WILL listen to local concerns and act upon them.
Simon Worthington
Wednesday 6th March 2019 at 3:47 pm
Since the changes that forced the owners of empty commercial property to pay business rates there has been no incentive for councils to encourage occupancy. Thus their continued interest in house building (no other facilities as there is no profit) on green belt; nice and quick and more cash via council tax to slosh around the trough.
The public, thanks to the internet and other information channels, is now much more aware of just how little value most retailers provide (with clothing in particular marked up enormously) in order to cover increasing taxes, wages, utilities, insurance (12% tax now and not reclaimable) etc.etc The public don't display the same canniness when spotting a coffee shop!!!!
The removal of business rates for small shops has allowed the greedy landlords (Pete's mob especially) to increase rents and their insidious maintenance charges.
Perhaps annual increasing of business rates on empty units would focus the minds of owners, even the absentee pension funds where employees have no personal interest in your investments. Maybe empty properties in corporate ownership should have to display their office address on the empty units.
Peter Davenport
Wednesday 6th March 2019 at 8:37 pm
Dear All
Re the amount of empty shop premises, this figure should take in the number of Charity shops, who pay minimum taxes. There must be at least 7 or 8 in the middle of Wilmslow, and others around the edge of the Borough. As regards other areas in CE, it will probably mean that the Engine of the North, will remain at the platform. About this, has anyone seen their Annual accounts?

Peter Davenport
Laurie Atterbury
Thursday 7th March 2019 at 10:53 pm
Don’t get it re Lidl at Summerfields. Went in there a couple of weeks ago and only half the check outs were being manned / used!

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