April 28, 2016 at 3:27 pm #112501
I sense a “lets be careful what we wish for moment” coming on
I note that plans have been submitted to partially convert a retail unit for housing purposes within the town. In the Report, it is explained that a major reason for this is the sense that units like this may never fully be used for retail in the future and that a part-conversion might be a preferable alternative for landlord, prospective tenants and the town in general.
All of this appears logical…..
What worries me, however, is that we follow the logic of this argument and start to identify whole swathes of the town that are perceived as being no longer likely to let and start a broader process.
It does appear that the Multiples no longer want to occupy smaller shops and that they prefer the type of shops that we note in the shopping parks. That said, in many towns, towns far smaller than Wrexham, the smaller shops are often fully let by the Independent sector. In Wrexham, this sector has been damaged by prior planning decisions which have allowed the peripheral shopping areas to develop. In addition, the town’s central areas are still living by the 2008 Rates values which are clearly in need of revising and the centres are undermined with, for example, expensive Car Parking.
Whilst I welcome nuanced policies which aim to convert space above shops into residential use, I trust that this will not become the thin edge of a dangerous wedge and lead to the wholesale onslaught on the town’s retail capacity. The Manchester Met have come up with some interesting and creative observations on this very matter and I trust that we can pursue their recommendations before we go down a road that sees our towns transformed negativelyApril 28, 2016 at 3:50 pm #112502
Just as an add-on. The nightmare for Rhyl in the 1980s was that Bed and Breakfast establishments and Hotels were allowed to change the “spirit” of their use, converting what still remained a Tourist Town under financial pressure to something completely different.
My own shop is in Bank Street. The Ratable value is currently over £14,000 and the Rates paid are currently over £7000. A house the size of my shop would pay about £1000 in Rates per annum.
Might there be a better case to be made by all of the political parties within the Welsh Assembly that Business Rates for shops across Wales were set more in line with Household Rates, especially as the large Internet businesses can avail themselves of extremely low Rates. Wouldn’t this approach encourage Enterprise and allow the retention of as much Enterprise occupied space as possible over time. We have to be careful that we don’t wish a Rhyl scenario on ourselves, one in which we replace “Economic/Enterprise” capacity with “Social” capacity and end up, like Rhyl, with plenty of people but nothing to provide work for them thereafterApril 28, 2016 at 9:37 pm #112527
If the rates were lower on retail premises they might be more attractive and easier to fill by independent traders. There is little choice in Wrexham which is why so many venture to Chester or the nearby cities to shop.April 28, 2016 at 11:35 pm #112531
The comparisons with what happened in Rhyl is quite misleading. The research for Rhyl shows the influx of what used to be DHSS claimants was as a direct result of the holiday flat-let trade crashing due to changes in the style of holidays that people took. Cheaper holidays abroad, holiday camps etc.
This left the landlords with a massive number of voids and the way the housing benefit system worked meant that it became financially very attractive to take in DHSS claimants. There was no need for any planning changes as the properties were already designed for living. In Wrexham the change of commercial property to residential would have to be on a case by case basis and require planning consent and in most instances would be low numbers.
There is still the fundamental issue of many businesses in Wrexham not meeting the needs of potential customers living in the area.
What are the added USPs to attract potential customers from outside of the area into town –
1. St Giles one of the Seven Wonders of Wales –
Can anyone fill in the ??April 29, 2016 at 9:07 am #112539
I totally agree with you, Council Watcher. The only down side to your post is that you have opened the flood gates to yet another interminable list of ‘USP’s’ that have been produced ad nauseum on this platform, that quite frankly people are unlikely to cross the road for.
I quite agree with Alun that business rates are artificially high and that a radical revamp is long overdue. What I cannot and will not believe is that parking charges are a particular barrier to the public using Wrexham town centre. Virtually all the car parks are full during trading hours (by direct observation on many occasions at Crescent Rd, Library and Island Green, amongst others). I really don’t think that if free parking was permitted for 3 hours or 3 days, it would make little difference. There is nothing in Wrexham to keep punters interested fo longer periods of time.
Wrexham does not have pulling power in terms of shopping experience or attractions to make visitors want to visit.April 29, 2016 at 2:42 pm #112569
The analogy was not designed to be a like for like comparison Council Watcher. I am merely raising the observation that the town appears at a crossroads and may go in one direction or the other. In the case of Rhyl, you are quite correct. Old style tourism had hit the buffers and Rhyl needed to adapt. Unfortunately, if it is easier to adapt in one direction than another, the likely outcome is the one that Rhyl got. Very quickly, Rhyl was on a spiral and was transformed from a struggling tourist town to become the most socially deprived town in North Wales.
I also suspect that you are wrong on the idea that shops will only be converted on a small scale to become living accommodation. I have seen this mentioned now on a number of occasions and I suspect that you will find reference to the same in the Masterplan (or alluded to).
On Benjamin’s points about Car Parking. The body of factual evidence from Report after Report is just too great to ignore these days Benjamin and it is not just about shoppers being disinclined to come to a town like Wrexham, it is also about shops like M & S being disinclined to locate on a traditional main street because there is no convenient Parking. As a shopkeeper with a shop that is perhaps 150 metres away from a Car Park, I am perhaps better off than some of the Queens Street, Hope Street and Regent Street shops which are now several hundred metres away from oneApril 29, 2016 at 2:46 pm #112570
On your second section about attractions to the area Council Watcher:
Any Telford construction including the Froncysytlle Aqueduct
The Parish Church
Llangollen and the nearby castle
Glyndwr University especially when say Comecon is on or any range of events
Many of the interesting Niche shops within Wrexham, my own included
Eagles Meadow…..which has a Bowling Alley, Cinema and any range of wonderful Multiples
…and so onApril 29, 2016 at 3:56 pm #112588
Interesting as the attractions you highlight maybe Alun, none of the examples you cite in themselves do anything to attract visitors to Wrexham town centre, which is the topic of this thread.
I accept that large and medium sized multiples do tend to be attracted to out of town developments, partly I agree, due to on the doorstep parking facilities on offer. What I will not accept is that parking costs is one of the main causes of the demise of Wrexham town centre. Reports can, and on many occasions do, come up with the conclusion that the commissioner wants. My eyes tell me differently.
Time after time on these very forums, we read that rates are too high, rents are too high and parking costs are prohibitive – not once have shopkeepers shouldered any part of the blame for their own demise – it is always someone else’s fault.
How does any trader survive when they are not providing what people want at the right price? As mentioned on another thread, some market stalls, for example, are attempting to sell goods that are more suitable as a hobby rather than a going concern.
The days are long gone when people were willing to accept products obtained from the warehouses of Cheetham Hill and Strangeways because they were cheap, purchasing habits are more sophisticated now as people can get a better quality product off the Internet or out of town shopping facilities for the same or similar price.
I welcome the introduction of a mixed usage town centre as it seems to me to be an excellent solution to preventing Wrexham becoming even more decrepit.April 29, 2016 at 4:01 pm #112591
I thought we were referring to brining people into Wrexham many of the ‘attractions’ listed are out of town- visiting Chirk Castle for instance could be the primary attraction – secondary visits have to be really appealing and I refer back to my original point about what are the USPs in Wrexham — A cinema in Eagles Meadow is not a USP>April 29, 2016 at 6:03 pm #112608
Actually, you are wrong in your way of looking at Wrexham as a town and an area. All of the places that Wrexham have bracketed within their Destination Wrexham approach attract people to the town and whether they come because the town is adjacent to these or not, to me, is irrelevant.
Places like Oswestry and Shrewsbury and many small towns have little more than Wrexham and many have far less.
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