Rising numbers of empty shops in Gloucester city centre
RISING numbers of empty shops in Gloucester could soon be filled with the help of Government cash to breathe new life into the retail sector.
The number of empty shops in the city has risen steadily over the last six months.
The city council has been consistently falling below its target of filling all but 36 of the 308 retail units available each month.
In April, the number of vacancies had risen to 49, climbing to 54 a month later in May.
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Although five of these shops were filled in June, the council is hoping to utilise a £100,000 High Street Innovation Fund from the Government to help reduce the number of vacancies.
Westgate Street had the most empty shops in June with 14.
City council leader Paul James said although the figures may suggest a bleak outlook, things are improving.
"We have made a lot of progress in recent weeks," he said.
"Work is going on to improve the Eastgate Shopping Centre and we have seen some of the vacancies in Westgate Street also recently taken on.
"The council is always looking at new ways to attract more shoppers and encourage new businesses to open.
"The High Street Innovation Fund will help us do that."
More than a third of the 49 empty shops in Gloucester are currently not available to rent. Some are being refurbished and others are in the hands of administrators of companies no longer trading.
The withdrawal of national chains such as Birthdays and Animal from Gloucester have worsened the problem.
A Government plan was put together last year with the help of retail guru Mary Portas in the hope of stimulating flagging town and city centres across Britain.
Problem areas highlighted in her report included parking charges and the competition from online retailers. Regular market days were also seen as an important tool to stimulate trade.
"A successful night market has already been staged in Gloucester," said Coun James.
"We always keep an eye on parking tariffs and reduce it when we can. The last reduction was in April and this all goes to help attract shoppers and businesses."