Niche shops could boost South Shore

Empty shops and struggling businesses on Bond Street, South Shore, Blackpool.

Empty shops and struggling businesses on Bond Street, South Shore, Blackpool.

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Niche shops, retail theatre and a world record knitting challenge are among the ideas which traders hope will help boost South Shore.

Residents, hoteliers and business owners have joined forces to form the South Beach Beacons which wants to encourage more visitors to Bond Street and Waterloo Road.

Its representative Julie Gillespie addressed a full meeting of Blackpool Council to appeal for support for the initiatives.

She told councillors: “We need to see an end to the poor quality shops and their equally poor shopfronts.

“South Shore Beacons are working with the Federation of Small Business to support a Niche Shops List to bring footfall back to these high streets and encourage a new type of visitor to the South Beach area and the whole Fylde coast.”

Ms Gillespie warned “this is a matter of survival.”

She called on the council to support initiatives by involving the group in detailed planning strategies and asked for selective licensing, currently being used to control rogue residential landlords, to be extended to commercial premises which were not being maintained.

She added: “South Beach Beacons are committed to regenerating and diversifying the area’s economy, its demographics and its environment.”

Coun leader Coun Simon Blackburn said he agreed with the group’s aims.

But he said national legislation did not allow selective licensing to be used in relation to commercial premises.

He told the meeting: “We welcome any group, individual or organisation who want to work with us to support Blackpool.

“I believe our plans are effective, our plans are deliverable and we will involve groups such as South Beach Beacons wherever we can.

“There is a burden for groups to take part in consultation. I would welcome their contributions.”

Among the Beacons’ plans are to publish a list of niche shops from across the whole Fylde coast, to bring performance theatre to some shops, and to organise a world record knitting attempt on the Promenade.

Susanne Johnson, of Johnson’s Wool on Bond Street, said after the meeting: “We were delighted Coun Blackburn agreed with all the points and we are looking forward to working with the council on our joint aims to improve South Beach.

“We are currently collecting a list of all niche shops on the Fylde coast and would like to publish it, perhaps on the VisitBlackpool website.

“Niche shops bring in lots of people to places like Harrogate, but we have them here as well. I also want to organise a world record knitting attempt with 3,100 people all knitting at the same time on the Promenade.”