MP calls for more action to support our town centres
25th January 2012
James Morris, Member of Parliament for Halesowen & Rowley Regis, has spoken in Parliament about the need for more support to be given to local high streets and town centres.
Responding to the review carried out by retail expert Mary Portas, Mr Morris praised the action that is being taken to regenerate Halesowen town centre but called for local councils to be given more freedom to act to support local high streets.
Mr Morris highlighted the work done by Dudley Council, Halesowen traders and other local organisations in recent years to attract more shoppers to the town, including Halesowen’s new bus station, the opening of the indoor market plaza and initiatives like Halesowen in Bloom.
He contrasted the effort put in to helping Halesowen town centre to meet the challenges posed by internet shopping and out-of-town shopping centres with the difficulties that traders in Cradley Heath High Street have faced in recent years – particularly since the opening of Tesco in the town.
Although local councils can legally allow new businesses and community organisations a period where they do not have to pay business rates, if they do so they still have to pay the full amount of business rates into the central ‘pot’.
Mr Morris called on the Government to look at new ways of allowing councils to grant business rate holidays to encourage businesses and community organisations to move into empty shops to improve the look and feel of the town centre.
In December, Halesowen Police set up a successful ‘Cop Shop’ in the old Pottery Shop, offering crime prevention advice and equipment to Christmas shoppers.
Mr Morris highlighted the project as an example of what could be done if rules on business rates were changed instead of town centre shops being left empty.
Speaking after the debate, Mr Morris said:
“Our town centres are vitally important to our local communities and are important parts of our local identity.
“All town centres are facing a range of challenges but it is extremely encouraging to see the work that is being done in Halesowen to make the town a place where people want to shop. I hope that Sandwell Council will learn some lessons from Halesowen to reverse the decline we have seen in Cradley Heath and Old Hill town centres over recent years.
“I want to see the Government doing more to allow local authorities and communities to be more imaginative in the way they attract shoppers and businesses to our high streets to regenerate our towns.”