SPECIAL REPORT: A call for action to save Worksop town centre

Worksop Town centre shops to let. Bridge Street.
Worksop Town centre shops to let. Bridge Street.

Urgent calls are being made to help Worksop town centre, as figures show around one in four shops now empty, the Guardian can reveal.

An investigation found there are at least 30 stores which are currently not occupied.

Shoppers and businesses say that business rates, online shopping, parking charges, bus cuts and expensive prices are to blame.

On Bridge Street, at least nine shops were found to be empty, with six in the Priory Shopping Centre, including four in a row. There were also five on Newcastle Avenue and six just off Eastgate.

The manager at R&M Kids, on Bridge Street, which opened three weeks ago, said: “It has been ever so quiet.”

“The council rates are unbelievable, that puts a lot of people off.”

“The council don’t help you, I think they could help more. I don’t think people understand the help that is out there.”

“It’s not just down to business rates, but they don’t help. People are scared of the cost.”

“Mine is a new business and because I have never done it before, I got help and got business rates relief for the first year so I have got mine halved. Maybe a lot of people don’t know that’s on offer. There is help out there but you have to find it out for yourself.”

Business rates are payable on all commercial properties -including shops, offices and banks.

The amount of rates payable takes two factors into account, the rateable value of a property and the ‘multiplier’. Rateable values are based on the size of a property and the multiplier is a figure worked out by the Government for each rate year.

Bassetlaw Council were unavailable to comment on the claims before the Guardian went to press.

The ‘traditional’ image of the town appears to have disappeared - as is the case all over the country - with local butchers, bakers and greengrocers replaced by charity shops, payday lenders, takeaways and a legal high shop.

In the last few months the Guardian has reported several closures of town centre stores, including a discount book shop which opened and closed within six months.

Bassetlaw MP John Mann said: “Unfortunately this is a sign of the state of the economy. People do not have money to spend which makes life very difficult for local businesses. A stronger economy that actually means people have more money in their pockets is the best way to boost local businesses.”

The Guardian spoke to an employee at Bargains 4 Homes, on Bridge Street, who said it has taken around two years for the shop to establish itself within the town due to people not knowing they were there.

She said: “We are just surrounded by empty shops aren’t we?”

“I know a lady who has just taken one on and it looks like it might not end up happening. She is worried already.”

“There is nothing this end of town. I get excited when someone walks past cause I think they are going to come in.”

George Cowcher, chief executive of the East Midlands Chamber, told this newspaper that businesses have said the pace of the economy slowed down towards the end of 2014.

“The slowdown has been significantly sharper than expected,” Mr Cowcher said. But it’s too early to definitively say that this is the start of a longer-term trend.” “Confidence among local firms remains high, with a significant majority still feeling their profits and turnover will increase in the year ahead and we are optimistic that the economic growth secured by business over the past couple of years will continue in 2015.”

The Guardian also spoke to some shoppers on the streets of the town.

Regular Worksop visitor, Salisbury Melvin, 62, said: “I come here from Mansfield and this is a little bit better.”

“You get better value for money parking here, I like coming to Worksop.”

“I would say there are more shops here, more to look at, even though there are a lot closing.”

“But if they don’t let them go for cheaper money what can they do ? It is all down to money.”

Another shopper, who did not want to be named, said: “It is miserable.”

“Why I think they are moving out is because the council is asking too much for rent, that is what I have heard.”

“It’s nothing like it used to be, you used to be able to get a good variety on things. But now it is more charity shops. There are only one or two shoe shops, there is not much choice.

“But where do you go nowadays that is not affected?”

l What do you think? Are there too many empty shops in Worksop town centre ? Email newsroom@worksop-guardian.co.uk.