Empty shops and ‘spiral of decline’ in Lewes

shopempty SUS-140403-154918001
shopempty SUS-140403-154918001

The number of empty shops in Lewes is still a matter of concern, a local councillor has warned.

Ashley Price, of Lewes Town Council, first highlighted the problem in October 2012.

Working with former councillor Petrina Kingham, he campaigned to reverse the trend but has confessed he is disappointed by results.

The pair worked hard contacting both agents and landlords of empty properties, but received “very little response”, and what they did receive was “mainly negative”.

Cllr Price said: “It seemed that it was preferable to leave shops standing vacant and, in some cases, boarded up, rather than having a temporary use, and keeping Lewes from looking too run down.”

Since Cllr Kingham stood down from the town council, Cllr Price has been looking for someone to assist him with the issue and has now recruited fellow Green Party member Adam Barker.

Cllr Price said: “I have tried to find time to continue to work on the matter of empty shops, but it proved much harder after Petrina had to step back. She was a great asset and it was a shame when she had to resign from the council.

“However, Adam has now accepted the challenge and we can re-start the campaign to get temporary uses for vacant properties. I have had some positive responses from at least one agent, who is willing to work with us, so now we need to move forward, as there are a lot of local groups and organisations who would love to use these spaces to promote their work, etc.”

Mr Barker said: “My job takes me to towns and cities round the country. Unfortunately many, due to a combination of high rents and competition from out of town superstores, have significant numbers of empty shops.

“This can quickly cause a spiral of decline, shoppers are no longer attracted to town centres and often the remaining retailers struggle to keep going.

“If Lewes town is to remain attractive to visitors while retaining its unique independent character it is vital that retail properties are not allowed to remain empty for long periods of time.

“I am pleased to assist in Ashley’s campaign to bring vacant properties into temporary use helping to ensure that Lewes remains an attractive and diverse place to shop, work and live.”

Meanwhile, fashion retailer Monsoon/Accessorize is seeking to brighten-up its High Street premises.

It has this week submitted a planning application to Lewes District Council to repaint the facade and install new signage lettering.