Fight Back Against Vacant Shops In Ely City Centre
HOPES that Ely s vacant shops can be used by community groups have been put forward. At meeting of organised by the Ely Perspective group, which aims to regenerate the design and economic future of the city, business leaders discussed plans to make bette
HOPES that Ely's vacant shops can be used by community groups have been put forward.
At meeting of organised by the Ely Perspective group, which aims to regenerate the design and economic future of the city, business leaders discussed plans to make better use of the increasing number of vacant shop fronts in the town.
In the past six months, Steeple Gate and Priceless Shoes on Ely High Street have closed, Woolworths shut its doors on Ely Market Place. On Fore Hill, specialist ladieswear store Mad Hatters ceased trading. According to latest figures data company Experian estimates that one in six high street outlets could go under this year.
Cambridgeshire's Liberal Democrats urged councils to do more to stem the tide.
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"District councils have a responsibility for economic development - it's time that they took that responsibility more seriously," said their county officer, Martin Land.
The idea has already been successfully employed in Cambridge city, where two enterprising university students took on a former outdoor clothing shop on Jesus Lane.
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The Shop, as it is now called, opened last year, after students negotiated a lease with Jesus College to open a community events space and art gallery.
The city council agreed tax reduction, and the project now hosts a string of drawing classes, art events, and tango classes advertised online and through leafleting.
"You have to have a very committed set of people with different skill sets," said Nikki Goldup, who helps to run The Shop. "It costs �40-�50 a day to run, and you have to think about people who will be there to staff it on a daily basis - they can be volunteers, or people who work and have time to give in the evenings."
Another initiative, The Caf� Project, started earlier this year in an old beauty salon on the same Cambridge street, but Nikki Goldup warned any prospective Ely groups to be aware of the pitfalls of running a community project. "You will need a funding plan in place before you start - health and safety, entertainments licence, planning permission changes, it all costs. It can be like wading through treacle at times, but a welcoming space for everyone to use is achievable."
Ely Perspective Group is due to publish its plan to regenerate shop fronts, according to chairman Philip Eden.