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Friday, 01 August 2014

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Main shopping street to be opened up to range of uses

WHITEHAVEN’S main shopping street is about to become ‘open house’ for a wider range of businesses – not just retail – with the aim to fill up King Street’s empty shops.

New occupants would range from financial/professional services, including estate agents to restaurants, cafes and betting shops.

And it is in line with what the Mary Portas facelift scheme wants to see in helping to decide which 12 English towns should receive grants to help breathe new life into high streets.

Whitehaven’s bid, which relates specifically to King Street, is being considered.

At its meeting on Thursday night, Copeland Council agreed to lift restrictions on exactly what shops can trade on King Street. Executive councillor George Clements said: "Properties have been standing empty for long periods, relaxing the rules to allow for other uses will fill the gap.

"It will also assist Whitehaven's bid for Mary Portas status."

King Street has been reserved for shopping up to now but the rules are being relaxed to allow wider commercial use.

The move follows months of consultations over whether the rules should be eased.

The original ‘shops-only’ policy was to promote and protect the character of King Street by restricting ground floor use or premises.

But concerns over the number of empty shops has led to the re-think and general agreement that the rules are relaxed.

Whitehaven Chamber of Trade, Enterprise Whitehaven, the Federation of Small Businesses, Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, local estate agents, developers and stakeholders, Whitehaven Heritage Action Group, various councillors and ‘anybody currently operating a business or living on King Street’ took part in the consultations. Most responses were in favour of opening up the street and that restrictions/controls are kept to a minimum.

Although there were concerns about off-licences and more charity shops setting up, this is something Copeland Council could not control through planning policies. However one control will be that non-retail uses makes up no more than 25 per cent of King Street’s two sections and that two businesses of the same non-retail type should not be allowed to set up next to each other.

Where a shop has been empty for at least six months and has been marketed for retail use at a reasonable price then the council will consider change of use for financial/professional services, restaurants or cafes.

Bringing premises back into commercial use is designed to generate ‘footfall’ and create more vibrancy on the street.

One view expressed in the consultations is that potential investors or retailers looking at Whitehaven would not be impressed with “betting shops etc” on King Street but a council spokesman said it would not be possible to restrict betting shops in the proposed change of uses policy.

Another said: “Although I would prefer King Street completely retail, I consider any open facility to be better than vacant shops.”

Existing commercial non-retail uses were allowed to set up in King Street before restrictions were put in place.

Have your say

I don't know who the 'council spokesman' is, but s/he should talk to their planners. It certainly is possible to restrict shops being changed to betting shops. The draft plan has a policy against it, and the Council can issue a direction to enforce it.

Posted by crisby on 29 March 2012 at 10:00

I hope there are safeguards in to stop every single empty unit being turned into a betting shop.

Posted by Andrew Donaldson on 23 March 2012 at 12:12

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