Cotswold high streets see empty shop numbers drop

HIGH STREETS in the Cotswolds are bucking the national trend and have seen the number of empty shops drop in recent months.

Cirencester’s vacancy rate fell to 4.8 per cent, which compares with 11 per cent in August 2021 and is much lower than the national average of 14 per cent.

This comes as Cotswold District Council undertook a vacant unit count in town centres in early October and found vacancy rates remain very low.

While officers say town centres have fared well compared with many others, they acknowledge that they should not be complacent as many businesses face a difficult time with rising costs and suppressed demand due to the cost of living crisis.

Economy and transformation cabinet member Tony Dale (LD, Northleach) said it was good news and he was particularly taken by the vacancy rates.

“It speaks volumes about the attitude and the work with ourselves and our partners that we have been able to support businesses to make a real go of what they are doing,” he told a recent cabinet meeting.

He said all the credit should go to economic development lead Paul James.

Council leader Joe Harris (LD, St Michael’s) said he finds “doom and gloom” comments on Facebook about Cirencester dying and the car parks being empty really depressing.

“It is not true, it’s rubbish,” he said.

“Anyone who went to the Advent Festival the week before last saw it was bustling.

“Actually, things are really good.

“If anyone says anything different, I don’t want to sound like Donald Trump, but it’s fake news, isn’t it.”

Mr James said the council does not downplay the difficult time that town centre businesses have had over the last couple of years but highlighted how well the district is doing compared to others.

“We know there are challenges with the cost of living crisis and people’s disposable income but the figures speak for themselves.

“In comparison to most other places, Cirencester and the other towns in the district are doing pretty well.

“People always tend to be harder on their own places than outsiders but you just have to go with the statistics and we are seeing new entrants coming to town centres.”

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