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Are we destined to be a region of ghost towns?

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: August 02, 2011

The cast of Turn Back Time - The High Street, a BBC documentary transported Shepton Mallet's High Street back through the decades

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More than a fifth of shops in the West’s most important retailing centre are empty, a shock new report has revealed.

The survey said Bristol is being hit especially hard by the flatlining economy, with Bath, Yeovil and Gloucester also struggling. The worrying figures sparked store wars between the political parties over the best way to get the high street bubbling again.

The Government unveiled an ambitious plan to help revive the ‘ghost towns’ including providing more parking spaces and ending what it called “Labour’s war on the motorist”.

But Labour hit back, saying the real problem was the Government’s failing economic policies, and called for measures including a VAT cut.

The study by Local Data Company found Ashley Down in Bristol had the most empty shops at 24.3 per cent, although the situation had not got worse in the past six months.

That means it has the 14th highest vacancy rate of all the UK’s small centres – those with between 50 and 199 shops.

Gloucester has a vacancy rate of 21.9 per cent, up 11 per cent, with Bristol at 21.3 per cent, up 6.9 per cent.

As our table shows, Yeovil, Trowbridge, Crewkerne, Bridgwater and Weston-super-Mare are above the UK average of 14.5 per cent.

Stroud, Bedminster in Bristol, Weymouth, Taunton, Chippenham, Clevedon and Wimborne Minster all have more than one in 10 shops standing empty.

Only Weston, Blandford Forum, Warminster and Marlborough saw a reduction in the vacancy rate, with Cirencester having the West’s best record, at just over six per cent.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said the answer was to increase parking spaces in struggling town centres and announced he will scrap the targets he says have prevented town centres from increasing the parking spaces on offer.

The current “anti-car restrictions” drove motorists to park on pavements and led to “overzealous” enforcement, he claimed, adding: “These parking restrictions have hit small shops the hardest, creating ‘ghost town’ high streets which can’t compete with out-of-town supermarkets.

“We want to see more parking spaces to help small shops prosper in high streets and assist mums struggling with their family shop.”

The Daily Press has reported on the controversy sparked when Wiltshire Council chiefs decided on a massive hike in parking charges in every market town.

They put up the cost to raise more cash to subsidise bus services, but shoppers have stayed away in droves, with the numbers using council car parks plummeting, and total revenue is expected to drop by half a million pounds instead.

Shadow communities minister Jack Dromey said: “Eric Pickles is no friend of the high street.

The truth is that this Tory-led Government has no plan for growth. They have harmed the high street with a hike in VAT which has squeezed family incomes and led to fewer people shopping in our stores.”

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  • bath1946  |  August 12 2011, 12:09AM

    August 5th 6:05pm post from Dylanwing to his friend Airhead whom he respects, including phrases such as odious, obnoxious, smug, self-righteous, nauseous, spiteful and awaited unreserved apology. Wow, and i'm a hypocrite. My response was to his PERSONAL abuse, at no time have i accused him of racial abuse and conveniently he cannot find any, but he knows i did . Bog Island is where the coaches park, and supported by JC, and Englander as opposed to British which is what i and many immigrants are. John Cleese post refers. It is not me with the Vocafone obsession VV and at no time have i given my opinion, merely dispelling this nonsense about it being a scam. Bully, not according to the people i help. Not decent ?. A coward, sometimes damn right i am, a good survival mechanism. A nasty piece of work who bears grudges, as Anil said, next you'll claim to know the colour of my carpet. I take no offence JC and i certainly do not require an apology.

  • airhellair  |  August 11 2011, 6:04PM

    Yes, things got heated here earlier, but then if you feel deeply about issues, you are going to argue passionately about them. That's hardly a fault. If anything, that's something lacking these days. As I've said before, mine here is an online persona and removed from the actual. I have no strong views about Bath in real life. On the whole, it doesn't make that much of an impression. It's an inconvenient place for public transport users and offers little value. That's a view formed during 3 decades. Despite being handed everything on a plate; heritage status, low crime, reasonable geography, it doesn't make the most of it. Give the same conditions to Hackney, for example, they will most likely run away with it - along with the 42-inch HD ready plasma and Nike trainers still in boxes..... ;-) You can criticise and hammer London as much as you want. Most of what you say will have some truth. I don't think it will worry any Londoners; ex-pats who live in bath are likely to feel they made the right choice by moving west. To me, life won't be the same now unless I hear a russian conversation on the 18:34 out of Waterloo or arrive in Kings Cross at 02:17, knowing I can continue the onward journey without having to get a taxi. Recent events though have left me wondering how we've managed to forget about a large part of society; those who should be invested in as our future. Whether I was racially abused by an individual here or not isn't an issue. If I insult you all collectively, then that's a consequence I expect. However, there have been some personal attacks - unecessary in my opinion - as all of you are eloquent enough without it. Shame on me that I have sometimes retaliated against individuals; mostly though, I've managed to do it to all of you. As for empty shops - this post's subject long since forgotten - my feeling is that they could be turned into more community-based places, perhaps for young people? How you fund it is another matter. Perhaps a mixture, just like the free buses in some cities, linking stations with shopping/city centres paid for councils, retaliers and others - http://tinyurl.com/3nos2zb

  • DaveF_Walcot  |  August 11 2011, 3:16PM

    Have we mentioned the Nazis yet? :)

  • Dylanwing  |  August 11 2011, 1:25PM

    Sorry Bath1946, but this needs saying - You DID accuse me of being racist to Anil, sadly I did not keep a copy of the post. You deleted my latest post showing your rank hypocrisy on the racism issue, assuming that i have never suffered racial abuse. Let's put it quite bluntly, you are a bully attacking anyone who dares disagree with you, a total hypocrite as shown above, a coward in that you cannot just admit your errors, and a nasty piece of work who bears grudges, as evidenced by your continually dredging up old arguments. Most of us have heated debates, but call a truce after a few posts, and agree to disagree in an amicable atmosphere. Quite frankly, your conduct and attitude is the reason that I am going, and I suggest that you take a long hard look at yourself and your posts, and think whether your attitude is appropriate, or respectful. i am not proud of my profanity, should not have posted it, but in light of your subsequent abuse, there is no way I will apologise to you. I have tried to depart with dignity, but as you keep on attacking me, I have just decided to put it straight. Quite frankly, this Forum would be a far better place without people like you. Goodbye!

  • Viscount_V  |  August 11 2011, 9:45AM

    Bath1946- On August 5th things got heated, I remember because I was here and I can see my response on the list. On August 6th while JC and Anil still did not agree on the issue, a truce was called and calmness descended. Later that day A N Other arrived with a shiny new insult and an obsession with Vodaphone. I may be tiresome, but I do believe this thread will disappear today. I hope this discussion won't be carried onto another thread with grudges abound. I too hope the personal insults can stop from all sides, I don't mind profanities but if you do, fair enough. I know I'd never make it in the UN peacekeeping force, but I did try. I will indeed, enjoy my beers in The Bell thankyou. (Once I'm invited).

  • bath1946  |  August 11 2011, 12:55AM

    Viscountess, your interventions are tiresome and inflamatory. I have never accused JC nor anyone of being a racist nor of racist abuse. I have no objection to him calling me not decent, whatever thae means, but i do object to his continual use of PERSONAL insults against ANIL as typified in his post of August 5th and his profanity as most recently lncluded in his post of August 6th. Enjoy your drinks at the Bell.

  • Viscount_V  |  August 10 2011, 11:48PM

    Bath1946. JC was never once in any way, shape or form racist towards Airhellair. Just as Dylanwing and several others among our posters were to some extent partisan to the "BA" postcode in regards to Anil and Malcolm Cupis, this was in no way related to race, creed or colour. Therefore, any suggestion that that you made regarding this needs to be quashed. Mr L makes a good point, the majority of us are not racist and indeed have an affinity with any who finds ourselves in a similar situation. I for one, am most guilty of class prejudice and presumption. I base this on personal experience but seeing as I haven't met every single person of unwarranted wealth, I am wrong to assume they're all Bullingdon boys or Zara Philips. We live and learn, but the route my friend Anil and yourself have taken in this thread is just inflammatory I'm afraid. Acceptance comes from both sides!

  • bath1946  |  August 10 2011, 11:23PM

    Dylanwing, vast quantities removed by the moderator ? Nonsense. Your personal abuse against airhelllair was typlfied in your post of August 5th and abbreviated profanity on August 6th. Continuously you have replaced inability to answer the argument with abuse, and when someone responds like with like, you cry foul. Also, irrespective of the opinion of me, you, Ian Hislop, or official from HMRC, the courts have never declared Vodafone illegal, therefore it is legal and not a scam. Since you wish to ressurect dead history, what are the scams and loopholes and how do they compare with the £6 bns defence administration shortfall of kit identified by the audit commission . Capn'Dave, there is much to admire about this country, but the looters and rioters are indifferent to pleas for patriotism and nothing we say can change that. On this thread you are preaching to the converted.

  • capndave  |  August 10 2011, 8:36PM

    When I joined the Royal Navy in late 1957 I found myself mixed in with all sorts, all classes, and all religions. After having our hair shorn, civvie clothes exchanged for harsh blue serge, and told in very a firm manner by a Chief GI what a bunch of cretins we were, the forty of us, all equal in appearance, looked to each other for comfort. During that first six weeks I discovered the bloke in the next bunk to me was the son of a Yorkshire Lord serving his two years National Service. He taught me about a bloke called Shakespeare, another named Charley Dickens and some foreign plonker with a funny sort of name that sounded like Amadaus. I being the lowly son of an east end London docker informed him about having to take five bob down to Ginger the bookies runner on the corner for an each way bet, about spending Saturday night sat outside the Dog & Duck, and not having shoe laces because we didn't have enough money. I remember each morning at church parade the loud order for all Roman Catholics and Jews to fall out. Imagine my shock to find that close muckers didn't have the same God as me. But it didn't make a lot of difference. Ossie the Jew still asked me to help him spit and polish his boots, and Paddy Toner always remained one of my closest friends until he was killed in Borneo. At the end of my basic six weeks training, the Lords son invited me to spend our first long weekend at his pad. Well I won't bore you with the details. Suffice to say, his pad was bigger than Royal Albert Dock just down the end of our street in Custom House, and his dad's land was bigger than the whole of the East End. Thank goodness I had three sets of navy underwear and two changes of navy blue socks. Undeterred, I invited his Lordship's son back to our two up two down terraced slum for our next leave. We shared a bed top to toe, with my brother in the camp bed in the corner. His Lordship's son, Ossie, Paddy Toner and me remained firm mates, and for years we kept in touch. Multiculturalism is not new. Getting on and learning from each others culture is not difficult. Respect and caring for each other has to be learnt. Patriotism and love for ones country is a must. Teaching the rules of the game is paramount. Knowing and suffering the consequences must be engrained in the mind set. We are British and we live in Britain. We must be proud of it, cherish it, and most of all respect it!

  • bath1946  |  August 10 2011, 7:02PM

    Sorry, don't wish to dominate the "airwaves" but have just heard of the intention to use water canon - against 7 year olds or cyclists ? Pray for rain at the weekend. There are hundreds of millions of dispossessed under - 25's world wide currently ripe for terrorism or building improved societies. Disillusion them and watch the consequences. Periodicals in other languages in libraries is not a profligate misuse of public funds, but does reinforce the intention not to integrate. Limit them to key languages necessary for international trade. Also, add co-operatives as youth possibilities and teach them to understand payroll deductions, pensions, employment law and health and safety - or perhaps not, drugs are easier. I have no personal experience of working with disadvantaged children, only the consequences of care, drugs and homelessness and anecdotal evidence, but google Kids Company with Batman unpronounceable.