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Fightback to save Dumfries town centre

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By Fiona Reid
Dumfries and West
Fightback to save Dumfries town centre

A 'DRAMATIC' fall in interest from national retailers is being seen in town centres such as Dumfries — focusing instead on cities and retail parks.

And responding to warnings of a 27 per cent increase in the region’s Internet shopping, councillors yesterday agreed to back policies aimed at supporting the ‘backbone’ of high street trade.
A report to the local scrutiny and performance committee said: “Encouraging more people into the town centre is crucial when faced with the issues of long-term vacancies, growing Internet shopping and national retailers focusing towards centres with larger populations.”
It added: “Established independent operators continue to remain the backbone of retailing in the region’s town centres.
“Non-retail ‘leisure’ services such as restaurants, cafes and hairdressers are becoming more popular as they attract regular custom and therefore an approach combining retail with non-retail ‘leisure’ uses could improve our town centre’s vitality, especially during the evening.”
Councillors were also told that demand for premises from national retailers in market towns ‘has fallen dramatically’.
And the report recommends less restrictive planning regulations to support and encourage the development of retail opportunities.
This was against the backdrop of a massive 27 per cent increase in internet shopping within Dumfries and Galloway over the last decade.
The report also noted that Dumfries’ three out-of-town retail parks are performing well.
But it said: “Although the retail parks have a role to play in retaining larger retailers, it is an indicator of falling interest in the town centre and the shortage of large units in the town centre.”
Meanwhile, active attempts are being made to encourage clothing firm Next to remain in the town centre.
Edinburgh House Estates own Loreburne Shopping Centre and have acknowledged a proposal to try and lure Next to a unit at Cuckoo Bridge Retail Park.
Centre manager Jim Ireland said: “We are disappointed to learn of NewRiver REIT (UK) proposals to try and relocate Next from the town centre.”
He added: “Protecting the high street and town centre is a matter of civic pride as well as being economically important.
“Next is one of the high street’s most recognised brands and we hope the store remains firmly in the town centre.”
Furthermore, John Menzies, of commercial real estate agents Cushman & Wakefield, has warned of the impact of such a move. He said: “The danger is, as we have seen elsewhere in Scotland, when a ‘top ten UK retailer’ such as Next, moves out of the town centre, it becomes a far harder job to retain existing occupiers, find replacement retailers for vacant shops and continue to bring in new retailers.
“I would be concerned that such a move would have a negative impact on Dumfries High Street and we should be looking at creating stimulus to help the town centre.”

Dumfries and West

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