New ‘lease of life’ for shops in North Street
Traders have called for the shops around North Street’s junction with Ship Street to be radically revamped, after a further quarter of poor retail performance.
Described as a ‘bridge between the North Laine and The Lanes’, Brighton traders have suggested that the walkway requires a new lease of life.
The corridor, or bridge, between Brighton’s famous Lanes on North Street has had the worst retail vacancy rate in the last quarter in Brighton.
This news has come on the back of five retail properties becoming empty on the bridge in the past few years.
The stretch of North Street, between Ship Street and Bond Street, is an area of great importance to owners of independent shops within the North Laine and the Lanes.
As it is a junction or corridor between the two integral parts of Brighton’s retail life, it is seen as an important trading opportunity for the independent shopping areas of Brighton.
Notoriously home to shops with fleeting endurance, the most permanent shops on the stretch include the 99p Store, Greggs and Oxfam.
Several traders around the affected areas have begun to make suggestions for its improvement.
Mr Wilkie, the owner of Charlie Barley, a clothing shop for children in Meeting House Lane, said: “It would be better if the area had a more distinctive feeling.”
He suggested that painting the buildings a certain colour, such as pink, would ensure that the area became more distinct and easier to remember.
Mr Wilkie argued that under pressure from competing Western Road, North Street needs its own distinctive identity.
Brighton and Hove councillors have also taken note of the need for improvement on the important bridge.
“We need to find a way to get those shops full again and revive the area.”
Council leader Bill Randall asserted: “The economic recession has hit big as well as small retailers hard.”
Although he has admitted that in comparison to other areas of England “The numbers of empty commercial properties in the council’s own portfolio is very low, and as a city we fare well compared to regional and national averages.
“The proportion of vacant shops in the city centre is about 6 percent compared to a national average of 14 percent.”
Despite this, council leader Mr Randall has confirmed that this is not acceptable. He said: “We are not content with the situation and are doing what we can. We support various business forums, partnerships and the Business Improvement District, as well as offering skills training and support to retailers such as ‘Dressed for Success’.
“The council has also begun a review panel into support for the retail sector which will be meeting over the coming months.”
Stuart Wilkie points out that one of the most significant causes of the issue is the high cost of setting up shops on North Street.
“There have been problems getting people to occupy those shops because the rates are so high.”
Mr and Mrs Swaine, shoppers on North Street this weekend, agreed that “the stretch here is in dire straits”.
They confirmed that a revamp to the section of North Street would be a very welcome change.