Cheshire East Council has reaffirmed its commitment to revitalising the borough’s town centres and their high streets
It comes as the council progresses a number of key initiatives across Cheshire East.
High streets and town centres are facing unprecedented challenges across the country as a result of changing consumer behaviour, which is impacting footfall, expenditure and the viability of retail premises.
However, in Cheshire East, latest data shows that the borough had an overall town centre retail unit vacancy rate of 10.2% in 2017/18 – better than the average national vacancy rate of 11.2% for the same period – and that vacancy levels at six town centres had reduced since 2016/17.
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.
Town centre vacancy levels are only one of several indicators of town centre health and, taken in isolation, do not show the full picture.
Figures shown in the council’s authority monitoring report 2017/18 show that vacancy levels 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.
In Cheshire East, there are long-term strategic 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 took apro-active approach to begin securing vacant possession of all properties within the Royal Arcade, ahead of redevelopment plans for the site.
This action can partly explain the increase in empty shops and was done to provide the greatest certainty and control for the council and its development partner.
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. It builds upon other recent investments including Crewe Lifestyle Centre and University Technical College.
Major enhancements will also be made to the public realm, while the Market Hall will undergo a £3m programme of refurbishment and remodelling and play an important role in strengthening links between the town centre and Grand Junction Retail Park.