A TRADER has cautiously welcomed a plan to help Dewsbury town centre shops with rent and business rates.
Mark Rourke, of shooting, fishing and fancy goods store Guns and Roses, questions whether stores such as his on Westgate would qualify for the assistance Kirklees is trying to get.
The Council no longer regards Daisy Hill to its junction with Westgate as being part of Dewsbury town centre.
Mr Rourke said: “If the council could get a government grant then I’m sure many traders would welcome it.
“My concern is whether shops on our side of town would qualify as we’ve been excluded from grants before.
“We’re within sight of Boots and McDonalds and we pay town centre rates, yet Kirklees think we’re not in the town centre any more.” Mr Rourke added that a lack of free parking and over-zealous traffic wardens make shoppers think twice about visiting Dewsbury.
Data shows one in four shops in the town centre, including Daisy Hill, are empty – figures which Kirklees Council disputes.
Kirklees claim without Daisy Hill, which is now deemed to be a residential area, the vacancy rate is more like one in five.
A spokesman said: “Our figures for retail vacancies in Dewsbury show 80 per cent of town centre shops in business.
“Parking charges are still at 2007 levels, there is discounted parking at the Cliffe Street car park and there is a free bus for shoppers.”
One shop that hopefully will not be empty is Greenwoods on Church Street – which is up for sale. Offers have already been made for the business, which opened in 1856 and is Dewsbury’s oldest surviving shop.
Co-owner Catherine Parkin, 72, wants to retire while daughter Caroline Clegg wants a career change.
Caroline said: “There’s nobody to leave the business to so we’ve put it up for sale. It’ll be a big wrench to leave.”
... but money’s no object for Tour de Huddersfield
HELP for Dewsbury traders should have from come cash spent on a 25-year regeneration plan, a campaigner has claimed.
Khizar Iqbal spoke out after it was revealed that Kirklees Council is looking for a way to cut rents and business rates.
Funding could come from a Government ‘high street forum’ scheme to stop the authority’s coffers taking a hit.
Mr Iqbal, a former Dewsbury councillor, highlighted how Kirklees spent nearly £200,000 on a regeneration masterplan over 2009-10.
He said of the high street forum: “Any help for traders is to be welcomed, but there’s no clarity as to where exactly the money would come from.
“And Dewsbury town centre needs serious and practical action, not another talking shop or more feasibility studies.”
The masterplan, by Leeds architects Bauman Lyons, was funded by now-defunct regional development agency Yorkshire Forward. It set out ambitious proposals for Longcauseway to be pedestrianised, the ring road remodelled and eyesore buildings demolished.
Mr Iqbal said: “We’re nearly four years into this so-called masterplan and what has it delivered for Dewsbury? Nothing.
“I said at the time any plan should’ve been perhaps over two or three years and focused on smaller, more realistic goals.
“A lot of good could have been done for traders with the money Kirklees wasted on their 25-year plan.”
Kirklees Council also confirmed this week they are spending £672,397 on hosting a section of the Tour de France ‘Grand Depart’ next year.
Mr Iqbal added: “Whether it’s St George’s Square, Kingsgate Phase Two, the John Smith’s Stadium or the Tour de France, money’s no object.
“If Dewsbury had had even half the money they’ve lavished on Huddersfield, you could’ve solved an awful lot of problems.”