Aylesbury’s town centre manager has said she is lobbying for greater powers over whether charity and gambling shops can open.
A Bucks Herald survey in the traditional shopping areas of the town centre (excluding retail parks) found that almost a quarter (22%) of all units are either empty, charity shops or gambling establishments.
The figures will raise eyebrows amongst Aylesbury residents and town centre manager Diana Fawcett said: “There is of course a place for charity shops and gambling establishments but what people are telling us is that they would like to see a bigger range of shops and restaurants and entertainment.
“Under the current Town and Country Planning Act, we have no powers to stop a charity shop occupying a retail unit or a gambling establishment moving in to an empty building society unit.
“Through my membership of the national Association of Town Centre Management we are lobbying for greater powers over these changes.”
A new district council document ‘Improvement Plan for Aylesbury Town Centre 2013-2021’ indicates a commitment to bringing higher end restaurants and shops to the town such as Jamie Oliver’s Italian and Gap respectively.
The town centre manager said this is a clearly step in the right direction to improving the town.
She said: “As everyone knows the retail market is very volatile at the moment and it’s quite possible to read everyday about the fortunes or otherwise of well-known brands so I don‘t think it’s particularly useful to comment on stats that can change on a regular basis for better or worse.
“What all towns need to be successful is a balance or range of outlets which meets the needs of the catchment area and make people want to use the town centre.
“All towns of Aylesbury’s size are feeling the impact of the recession but at least there is plan for the town centre led by district council and supported by the Aylesbury Town Centre Partnership – that’s a very important step in its own right.”
There are further indications of improvement with the imminent arrivals of Waitrose (August), Topshop and Nando’s (both October).
breakdown of premises
Restaurants (including takeaways) - 33 (15%)
Empty units - 29 (13%)
Hair and beauty - 25 (11%)
(i.e. - Poundland, QD) - 23 (11%)
Fashion - 22 (10%)
Estate agents - 20 (9.%)
Pubs/clubs - 16 (7%)
Charity - 10 (5.%)
Banks - 9 (4%)
Food (supermarkets shops) - 9 (4%)
Gambling shops - 8 (4%)
Cafes - 8 (4%)
Off licences - 7 (3%)
TOTAL UNITS - 219