A LONG-term vision is needed to safeguard the future of Hucknall town centre — and the shops that are its lifeblood.
That is the call from the town’s Conservative MP, Mark Spencer, after a report from financial firm Deloitte that suggests 40% of high street stores across Nottinghamshire could close in the next five years.
Already this year, Hucknall High Street has been hit by the high-profile closures of the Bon Marche ladies’ clothing shop and the long-standing shoe store, Jonathan James.
There are empty premises, such as the former Wilkinson store, which are becoming eyesores.
Traders are also concerned over the long-running saga around plans for the Hucknall inner bypass and part-pedestrianisation of High Street.
Mr Spencer says he is also disappointed that Ashfield District Council has voted to increase car-parking charges in the town, with the price for one hour set to double from 20p to 40p.
“There doesn’t seem to be an underlying vision,” said Mr Spencer.
“There needs to be co-ordination between Ashfield Council, Notts County Council and the shopkeepers.
“More than £1 million is being spent on creating office space in the former school between Vine Terrace and Beardall Street. I think that could be better spent in brightening up the High Street and supporting traders.”
Mr Spencer praised local businesses last year with his ‘Heart Of Hucknall’ initiative to raise their profiles
“Let’s not talk things down too much,” he continued. “Hucknall town centre has a lot to offer and has a lot of potential. It has some nice shops.
“But it needs help from councils and from shoppers who need to keep buying from the businesses.”
Coun Ian Morrison (Lab), a Hucknall member of Ashfield District Council, says he and his fellow Hucknall councillors are determined to support the town centre.
“It is key to protect independent traders,” he said. “I think the town centre needs to be looked at under a magnifying glass.
“We have a regeneration team at Ashfield Council but they are responsible for three towns.”
A town-centre ‘masterplan’ is in place that has already yielded improvements to Market Place.
Grants have also been made available to improve shop fronts.
A scheme is also running to help charities take on empty premises to bring them into use while long-term tenants are found.