Council looks to help town centre trade

A WORKING party will be set up by North Somerset Council to investigate how it can help independent traders stay in business.

The authority’s strategic planning and economic development policy and scrutiny panel (SPED) discussed the plight of the district’s town centres during a meeting on Monday.

This stemmed from a request made by Clevedon councillor David Shopland that North Somerset Council investigates the possibility of controlling the number of charity shops and takeaways in shopping areas.

However, a report to the meeting explained North Somerset Council has little control over the number and location of charity shops due to the class system used to define the use of commercial premises. Charity shops are classed as A1 shops, just the same as any other retail outlet.

The report also showed that, as of April 2011, the number of charity shops and takeaways in the town centres of Nailsea, Clevedon and Portishead had hardly changed since 2008. However, more have opened since April. Nailsea councillor Jan Barber said: “The perception of residents is that there are more charity shops and takeaways.”

Cllr Shopland said: “Charity shops and takeaways serve a certain public need but all things are only good in moderation.”

In his report to the committee, council officer Graham Quick said: “Many of the concerns arising from the growth of charity shops and takeaways is the poor image they portray for town centres. This is then perceived as a symptom of the gradual decline of town centres.”

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As part of discussions on how North Somerset Council could prevent the decline of town centres, Councillor for Pill, Donald Davies, suggested doing more to promote existing markets.

Cllr Mark Canniford said planning policy should be altered to make it easier for town centre development to take place and also said North Somerset Council should be doing more to ‘embrace’ the trade organisations in its towns.

Following discussions, the SPED panel agreed to set up a working party to look at the council’s approach to retail in response to the concerns of the public and retailers.