Does Cheshire East Council* have a clue?

Year after year Cheshire East councillors sign off on out-of and edge-of-town retail parks.

In Macclesfield, the latest is the Black Lane retail park – promoted by planners who arguably wouldn’t last a day in the real commercial world – and sanctioned by the councillors we elect.

What happens next is inevitable. The national chains will move out of town onto the new retail park – taking advantage of lower rents and – with the advantage of free parking – the potential to increase their footfall.

Then surprise, surprise, footfall in the town declines.

So what do the same councillors do?

They chuck more of our hard-earned cash into revitalising the very same town centres that have been decimated by the very same planners and councillors.

And believe me, the numbers are eye-watering.

Ludlow, Shropshire

If any one of them took the time to look at towns that are thriving, like Ludlow, in Shropshire, they just might get a grasp of why that town, unlike most others of the same size, is so successful.

For years Ludlow planners – and thus the council – have refused any planning application to combine single retail units to provide large retail spaces.

Think about it, if the only premises available are single unit shops – the national chain retailers can’t move in.

What happened then, is that if any small business closed, they are immediately taken up by a similarly small, generally independent retailer.

The result is that people continue to regularly visit Ludlow. Because in Ludlow they can find independent shops that they can’t find anywhere else in the country.

Macclesfield Treacle Market

It’s like having a market every day of the year – only permanently sited.

Consider the thousands of people that visit Macclesfield’s Treacle Market every month.

Then consider, when all of the big retailers have moved out (which they will) if those same stall-holders were able to have a little shop in the town centre – what the impact on footfall in the town would be.

Food capital of Yorkshire Malton

It’s not just Ludlow either. Take a look at Malton in Yorkshire.

Most of Malton is owned by one family estate – and they look after Malton by only allowing in businesses which they believe will make a positive contribution to the town.

Which means potential retailers are anxious to secure retail space in the town – and if they can’t – they still have the option to set up a stall in the regular and highly successful markets.

Combine this, with a council as protective as Ludlow, and you might just begin to understand why Malton is now considered the Food Capital of Yorkshire – and the town is rockin’.

Macclesfield need not be in terminal decline.

Insist that developers split up the increasing number of large empty units into small ones – and don’t allow them to be re-combined in the future.

Then allow part of those same premises to be used as residences – so the start-up retailers can live over or at the back of the shop – as many in Macclesfield did in the past – and many in Ludlow and Malton still do.

And if you can’t offer free car parking, don’t just charge business rates on retailers retail premises – charge the full rates on their car parks as well.

This might start to level up the playing field – then when the chain retailers decide things would be cosier in town – the smaller units will stop them from coming in.

A thousand mile journey begins with just one step

*and planners

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