Boston Borough Council’s leader Peter Bedford answers James Waller-Davies’ questions on the retail picture in the town centre...
Q1a) Is the council concerned about the growing number of empty retail properties in the town centre and upper West Street - for example, following the recent departure of Body Shop and imminent closure of Edinburgh Woollen Mill; online commercial property websites show a number of other businesses for sale (most as vacant possession). (We have identified over 45 properties either closed, closing, or for sale)?
b) If so, what measures are in place to address these concerns?
Boston bucks the trend of the more significant shop closures in other towns. We should be celebrating that fact. The shops and businesses, the landlords, the Chamber of Commerce and the council all need to work together. The council, in partnership with English Heritage, has invested more than £80,000 through the shop frontage and building repair grant scheme and is working with the Lincolnshire Chamber of Commerce on a tourism and action plan. The council takes the lead in the Boston in Bloom initiative. All aimed at helping make Boston a destination.
2. What is the council doing to help facilitate a change of use of excess retailing property from retailing to other uses? Our specialist has said: “Empty properties not being used need to be taken out of use in a structured way. The amount of space required for retail is reducing fast and planners need to think of alternative uses for this space.”
Our planners are open to a wide range of alternative uses, but the property owners, landlords and businesses must make the changes.
Q3. Our specialist has also suggested that, given the profiling systems used by national companies, future investment by national retailers is unlikely at present. Do you know of any imminent new retail investment coming to Boston by way of new shop openings?
There will always be empty shops in town centres and premises seeking new owners, landlords and tenants. Boston performs well compared to many. There should not be an assumption that high streets will remain as anchor points for retail.
Q4. Our specialist has also suggested the new Quadrant development can only be detrimental for the town centre. Is this a concern you share and what reassurance can you give to existing retailers in town regarding this?
Town centre impact will be an important consideration.
Q5. Following the demise of Boston BID, what is the council doing to facilitate a replacement business group, especially for retailing?
We are meeting with Lincolnshire Chamber of Commerce to discuss proposals for a new initiative for Boston.