People must unite to save town centres

editorial image

A COUNCILLOR is calling for organisations to pull together to help save businesses across the county after figures revealed a concerning number of empty shopping units.

A Northumberland County Council report on the number of vacant shops in town centres, based on local knowledge and assumptions, says that Morpeth has six vacant shops, Cramlington and Blyth have nine and Ashington 19.

Those figures equate to 3.12 per cent of properties being vacant in Morpeth, 4.91 per cent in Blyth, 10.37 per cent in Cramlington, and 11.52 per cent in Ashington.

But one official believes more can be done to make sure shops stay open, giving residents local trade.

Blyth councillor Vince Coils said: “The figures make very painful reading for both the large and small businesses trying to make ends meet in these difficult times.

“We need to look at the figures not as a shop has shut on the high street, these are not just numbers on a page, these are details of people’s lives being changed, livelihoods being destroyed, sometimes to the point where our town centres will not see a recovery for generations.

“Shops can be there one minute and gone the next.

“The problem I have is with negative comments being made about our town centres and the effect this can have, particularly when we should all be pulling together to help with business investment and stability in our town centres.

“As a council we need to make plans for the future, as in the past few months Blyth town centre has seen the loss of two of its largest shopping units, which are going to be very difficult to replace.”