What are the challenges facing our High Streets?

Nailsea High Street

Nailsea High Street - Credit: Archant

LARGE retail parks, business rate levels and the need to attract more visitors are all issues considered to be affecting trade in North Somerset towns.

National charity Towns Alive, which works to promote local high streets, has published a report after surveying business owners in some 103 towns across the UK to find out what they think are the most pressing issues affecting trade in their area.

Top of the national list was business rates, closely followed by parking problems and the fact certain areas fail to encourage people to use what is on their doorstep.

In North Somerset, business groups have agreed with some of the top issues but have also cited competition from out-of-town parks and the need to attract more visitors as problems.

Nailsea Chamber of Trade and Commerce president Janet Hendey said: “Parking in itself is not an issue as we have plenty of parking spaces.

“The problems the town faces are certainly the competition from out-of-town shopping, particularly Cribbs Causeway, and the increasing use of internet shopping.

“We also need to attract more visitors to increase the profile of the town outside of Nailsea.”

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In Clevedon, where new promotional material could be produced to raise the town’s profile, chamber president David Hendey said: “In Clevedon, the sole issue regarding parking is the lack of enforcement of those restrictions which exist.

“I would also agree that a major issue for any business is the level of business rates and, although the current reduction should help, it is still a substantial overhead.

“The fundamental issue in Clevedon seems to be the inability of many start-up businesses to sustain turnover and profitability.”

In Portishead, where a new loyalty card scheme is in the making, chamber of commerce president Victoria Hancock believes the town is bucking the trend.

She said: “Portishead has a vibrant high street and we are very lucky with the facilities we have on our doorstep, the number of empty retail units is minimal at currently less than five per cent with the national average at 13.4 per cent.

“We often have new traders contacting us wondering how they can find out about empty units as they really are few and far between.”