A NUMBER of popular shops and eateries have been put up for sale on Whitehaven’s high street - but business leaders say the future is still bright for the town.

Arrighi’s chip shop, La Chic clothing store, Barra Jack’s pub and the Upper Crust sandwich shop are among the town centre establishments to go on the market. Some have been in the town for decades, including the family-run Arrighi’s, which has been serving fish and chips for over a century.

Changes in consumer habits, including the rise of online shopping, has been blamed for the decline of the high street but public figures are optimistic about future trade in the town.

Graham Roberts, who represents the Harras ward on Whitehaven Town Council, says the internet is only partly to blame. He believes parking is the main issue in Whitehaven town centre. “The internet has taken a toll on things but they can’t blame it all on the internet. It’s a general decline. The style of shopping is changing and the way people shop has changed.

“I think we have got to address this parking issue. I would say we have [need] free parking between 11am and 2pm, seven days a week. It will encourage people to use the cafe culture, and have lunch and do a bit of shopping. That is the way forward.

“I look at parking in Barrow, Carlisle and Penrith and they seem to have got it right. Whitehaven need to look at it. There are a lot of options we have got to look at but, for me, parking is the key one.”

Mike Starkie, Mayor of Copeland, says a lot of work is being done to boost trade in the town. “A total of 129 businesses were opened or relaunched in Copeland during the last financial year. These figures show real growth in Copeland’s business sector, and it’s extremely encouraging to see so many new businesses – or existing businesses that have been taken over.

“I have personally written to the owners of each new business that operates in a commercial premises in Copeland, over the last six months and have visited many to offer my support first-hand.

“We’re currently working on a substantial application to the Government’s Future High Streets Fund to bid for our share of the £675 million which will transform our town and have appointed a new Tourism Officer to support businesses who rely on this sector. We’ve supported the investment of more than £750,000 to improve the appearance of commercial premises across the borough over the past 18 months.

“We have launched an apprentice subsidy to small business owners through our work with the Copeland Work and Skills partnership and we also provide various businesses rate relief schemes.

“Some of the businesses for sale in Whitehaven at the moment are due to nothing more than the owners retiring having provided many years’ service to the people of Copeland. There is always going to be movement in the business sector and the current commercial premises for sale provide a real opportunity for new business owners to thrive in our main town centre.”

Gerard Richardson MBE, who owns Richardson’s of Whitehaven, says the town centre investment planned for next year will be a “massive boost” but that work still needs to be done to attract shoppers to the town again.

“Whitehaven has had its ups and downs like any other town since the financial crash of 2008, which was closely followed by the rise in internet shopping but I really do think we are well placed for the future.

“I think the outlook for the town is improving and will be so much better by this time next year as we start to see how it will be developed. Ultimately, investment is only part of the solution because the key part is to re-engage shoppers, particularly the younger generation with our town centres and I would like to see money being invested into promoting that via adverts.

“It’s always nice to see businesses stay in the same hands but sometimes people retire and the key is for the businesses to be retained in the town itself. I am however particularly sad that the family connection in Arrighi’s is set to be lost as it’s one of the oldest family-owned businesses in the town going back about a hundred years.”