Thursday, December 05, 2013

Laurie lists town centre retail woes

At the N,B&S area committee meeting on Tuesday the ongoing attempt to get Scottish government cash for a charrette to discuss the future of Nairn town centre was discussesed. During this discussion Cllr Laurie Fraser, who has a business on Nairn High Street himself, gave a depressing picture of the formidable obstacles that face shops in town centre premises in these rapidly changing times.

“It’s all very well having these things and I doubt if we are going to get anywhere with the Scottish Government with this. We need to identify a few of the problems and I’ve just listed a few here. We have got excessive retail space in Scotland,  that needs to be addressed. We’ve got unrealistic landlords who demand far too high rents, they tie people into seven year leases and then they put on the leases “upwardly increasing rental only” and that doesn’t help the situation because if the footfall falls away and the business starts to flounder people are bankrupt and at the end of the day as we in Nairn have actually had to house people who have lost their houses because of this. It is something we should be tackling and we as a council should be taking on because some of our leases actually have “upwardly increasing rentals only” and I sometimes feel this is unfair. 

A lot of the properties we’ve got now in our High Streets just because the shape and size of the buildings they bring in insufficient return to cover basic things like roof repairs, upgrading work even insufficient profits for the owners or the people that are renting the building to cover. There’s loss of footfall that needs to be addressed through more car-parking spaces. We have a rating system that is very inflexible, especially for new businesses that start up and where you lose the footfall or you have difficulties it’s tied to the value of the building and sometimes the building can’t generate an income to cover the rates. We’ve got streets that are not the best ideal, they’re hundred, a few hundred year old streets, where as compared to the shopping malls and supermarkets they are purpose built. It’s very hard to compete against that. We’ve got fast changing shopping trends as well through the internet and its hard for people to keep up, certainly if they’re on long leases or in long-term properties. We’ve got problems with banks and financing, we hear the big argument of the banks not lending money out for businesses to get start-up. There’s no bank managers anymore, so I sometimes wonder how young people are supposed to start. I mentioned parking, compare the supermarkets. Purchase of goods is sometimes very difficult.[…] But it’s very difficult sometimes to buy goods and sell competitively especially up against supermarkets who actually dominate their towns and cities now these supermarkets and unfortunately these out of town retail centres - , whose fault is that?  It’s ours because we actually gave them planning permission to build there. So we need to address a number of these issues in particular before we…as part of our ongoing strategy for dealing with town centres.”

Liz then said: “Thank you Laurie, I think that you’ve raised a lot of good problems that the High Streets and the communities and the towns and the villages face but very few solutions and hopefully by coming forward with a charrette we can try and encompass all that. I think if you have got proposals for solutions to some of these issues that you have raised we would be delighted to hear them as well.

The N,B&S area committee meeting can be viewed in a webcast here. 


Anonymous said...

What's a charrette really going to do for our town centre? If it's like this area committee meeting it's our money being used by a few worthies to blow hot air around a room

High Streets are in decline period. Folk are going to retail parks or shopping on-line, or not shopping hardly at all, we already know this, why do we have to spend money trying to tempt folk back to our High Street, it's not going to happen. As each shop closes another group of people will no longer visit the High Street

An example. You want to hire a film, Blockbusters has closed, you go on-line and watch it, you'll never again wander our High St to hire a film.

Please take off the rose tinted specs that seem to give certain people ideas that the High Street can somehow become a retail mecca again, it just needs a few meetings and a coat of paint. It's not going to happen. You might as well head to the beach and try stopping the tide coming in. Good luck!

Graisg said...

@washing my ears oot You say Michael Green said “'It's an exciting time for High Streets'.” I can’t find that on the video.
He does say "It's a very exciting time surrounding town centres" He starts to speak on this subject at 47.16 into the video (video here) and goes on to outline some ongoing initiatives and one he thinks could work locally if put into action.

In general I would accept your analysis:"Really, as far as I can make out nearly all our High Steets including Nairn are in severe decline"

The alien said...

I seem to be from another planet. Could someone explain to me as to what a 'good problem' is please?

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure what a 'good problem' is, but I suspect it'll command a bad solution

Anonymous said...

Good to hear Laurie's views from the point of view of being a local shopkeeper, I think he's being optimistic to think that improved parking would make the High Street more attractive to folk though. Laurie offers a great personal service which is why I use his shop when I can

*Editor's note - Anon, thank you for your further point about Liz and development - will not be publishing that bit however.

Minimum Wage said...

Does Cllr Liz MacDonald not get paid £8K a year to chair these area committees?

Am I alone that in a time of severe spending cuts within Highland Council this is an obscene amount of money to be paying anyone?

Anonymous said...

Not sure as to why people as so surprised by our councillors wealth, information is shown in their declared interests as councillors on the Highland Council website.

Laurie is a business person who owns several properties, Michael Green is also a business person who owns both property and land. and Liz McDonald owns both property and land.

Our councillors are maybe not too different to the Westminster Cabinet who are also mainly wealthy individuals

Graisg said...

@anon 3.05 Liz's only job is as a councillor.
You don't get sick pay or holiday pay for your part time work? Have you been to see the citizens advice?

Anonymous said...

£8K to chair 4 meetings a year.

It's in the realms of banker's salaries