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.