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Empty shops in Guildford "double since January" claims councillor

2 minute read
Empty shops in Guildford "double since January" claims councillor

Published at 11:41am 25th October 2018. (Updated at 10:28pm 25th October 2018)

A Councillor has questioned the future of Guildford's high street after reports that Debenhams and Gourmet Burger Kitchen stores are at risk of closure.

Cllr Tony Rooth has claimed that the number of empty shops in the town centre has doubled since January.

He has called for a change in the emphasis of plans away from retail to focus on building housing on 'brownfield' sites.

Among closures in Guildford already this year include Maplins, Hummingbird Bakery and restaurant CAU.

Cllr Rooth said:

“This morning's news about Debenhams closing up to 50 stores (and making up to 4000 staff redundant) again calls into question the Local Plan's emphasis on retail expansion in the town centre.

“The town centre will not support the amount of planned retail in particular in the light of the continuing and increasing challenges presented by internet shopping. 

"Shops in our town centre are closing because of various factors including business rates and rents.

"This can be seen from the number of empty premises especially on the Upper High Street, North Street and in the new Tunsgate Quarter.

“Many chains are not occupying or closing shops either because they do not have the continuing need for premises, are in financial difficulties or have gone into administration."

He added that while he was saddened by store closures, they could provide potential expansion for affordable housing in the town centre, avoiding development in the borough's Green Belt.

In response, Guildford Borough Council Leader Paul Spooner said:

"It is disappointing that Cllr Rooth seems determined to undermine Guildford's excellent retail offer.

"Whilst there are challenges in the sector across the country, we still have a vibrant town with a fantastic mix of national and independent retail as well as a wide variety of food and beverage."

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