Lincolnshire

‘Catastrophic failures’ warning for Lincolnshire high streets

“Catastrophic retail failures” in the coming months will have a damaging effect on Lincolnshire’s high streets, a senior county councillor has warned.

Councillor Colin Davie, executive member for economy at Lincolnshire County Council, said that “secondary towns” in the county will suffer from changes in retail unless action is taken.

This year, major outlets, such as Toys “R” Us and Homebase, have closed in the county as well as three branches of Lloyds Bank and four from Natwest.

Councillor Colin Davie, executive member for economy at Lincolnshire County Council.

But Councillor Davie said that the region must avoid empty units and charity shops “filling the void”. He also warned that further closures should be expected.

“Town centres are struggling and I don’t think that people realise how bad this is going to get very quickly,” he said.

“I think that this time next year there will be some catastrophic retail failures across the country and a lot of our smaller, secondary towns in Lincolnshire are going to lose a lot of their high street retail offer.”

He added that both the Greater Lincolnshire Enterprise Partnership and district councils have “a lot of work to do” in order to keep town centres vibrant for the future.

It comes as the City of Lincoln Council is set to lose out on more than £1.1 million in car parking revenue with retailers reporting up to a 25% drop in takings year on year.

The figures follow a trend which began towards the end of last year and “reflects a reduction in demand for shopper car parking spaces” after several big national retailers closed their stores due to trading difficulties.

But the leader of the council, Ric Metcalfe, said there is “absolutely no evidence” that shoppers are being driven away by parking charges and added that the amount in takings is up but not as much as the authority hoped.

Councillor Davie said that Lincoln city centre is “vibrant”, and that the problems for retail will have consequences elsewhere in the county.

Market Street, Sleaford town centre. Picture: David Hallam-Jones.

“The problem that I see is in those ‘secondary brands’ as I call them,” he said.

“I think there are some brands that are in real trouble and I think that we could see wholesale closures of some of those in the next few months.”

He added that the problem requires a reimagining of the high street from local government on how to get people both living and shopping in town centres.

He said: “It’s not something that we can have two years of policy discussion about.”