Empty shops could showcase young talent

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EMPTY shops in Lewes are, sadly, on the increase as the recession continues to take its toll.

The result, if the situation is left unchecked, is that the county town could become very sorry-looking.

This could have an impact on tourism and lead to further shops becoming vacant and vacant shops standing empty.

Clinton Cards already stands forlorn; Stead and Simpson is closing down; Julian Graves has gone into administration. Even on School Hill there are vacant shops.

Lewes Town Councillors Petrina Kingham (Liberal Democrat) and Ashley Price (Green Party) were approached by residents concerned about the situation and asking what could be done.

After writing a blog and posting the question on Twitter, Cllrs Price and Kingham quickly obtained ideas from people on what they would like done to improve the appearance of the vacant shops.

There were a range of positive suggestions from pop-up shops and temporary information/advice centres, to mini-museums and other stores being allowed to showcase some of their stock in the space.

However, two ideas stood out – to use the shops to display artwork from students of both Sussex Downs and Ringmer Colleges and to to showcase the work done by the children of Lewes-based, award-winning theatre company Intrepid.

Cllrs Price and Kingham plan to develop these ideas and obtain advice and guidance from other local organisations. Cllr Price met with David Clark, President of Lewes Chamber of Commerce, who was supportive of the move.

Cllr Kingham said: “This idea has worked well in both Eastbourne and Hailsham.

“It is a way of maintaining a vibrant presence rather than a black void.

“Empty shops discourage prospective businesses, tourists and homeowners and only lead to further decline in an area.”