‘Extinction’ fear for high street

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TRADERS fear Spalding town centre is a “dinosaur about to become extinct” as more dire predictions abound about the future of Britain’s high streets.

One shopkeeper has said she is barely breaking even and could be forced to close unless shoppers change their habits and start to support the town centre, while another says rents have not fallen during the recession to support struggling shops.

However, Phil Scarlett, of Spalding and District Chamber of Trade, has disputed that, saying Spalding is doing much better than other towns of similar size as it has a high number of shops owned by private landlords who have been flexible on rents to help businesses through hard times.

But Mr Scarlett has warned that 2012 is still likely to be as challenging as 2011 for those fighting to survive.

Denise Wales, of Bargain Books in Sheep Market, is one of those fearing her business could be on its last legs.

She says some days Spalding is like a ghost town as empty shops mean people feel there is little reason to visit.

Currently about a dozen shops in the town centre stand empty, many having remained so for many months.

Mrs Wales said: “I don’t want to close. I love my shop and my customers but if it gets to the point where I am losing money then I will have no choice.

“People have got to understand that they need to support us, or they will lose us.”

Pete Williams, landlord of the Punchbowl pub in New Road, believes there needs to be more incentives for people to open shops in the town centre and for shoppers to come in – including providing free parking close to the shops.

He said: “Spalding town centre is a dinosaur which is about to become extinct. House prices have come down during the recession, but shop rents haven’t.

“Surely it would be better to have someone in there providing a service than it standing empty, which is certainly not helping the town.”