Traders in Nailsea have raised concerns about the number of empty shops in the town – after news another major retailer is to move out. Greengrocer S&R Burchills, which has been trading in the town for more than 30 years, announced earlier this month that it was to close its store at Collier’s Walk as it was ‘no longer viable.’
The store will continue to serve the Nailsea area through an online shop and via telephone orders from its Bristol Fruit Market base. But the news has come as a major blow to businesses in Collier’s Walk which already has a number of empty shops.
HSBC bank shut its doors last year along with TUI travel agents. Cohen’s Chemist also closed along with a vape shop, an international store and a phone shop. The CLIC Sergant charity shop closed at the beginning of lockdown and has yet to re-open. There are still some shops in Collier’s Walk including a Greggs, a charity shop, gift shop, coffee shop and an opticians.
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Concerns are now being raised among businesses that the continued exit of stores could leave Collier’s Walk like a ghost town. S&R Burchills manager Debbie Reeves said: “We have seen footfall drop off here and that is one of the reasons we are leaving.
“You have only got to see the amount of empty shops in Collier’s Walk and there doesn’t seem to have been a great effort put into trying to attract new businesses here. The town centre owners need to do more to attract new businesses to Nailsea.”
Dean Sandy who owns Coffee Corner on Collier’s Walk – along with Cafe 119 in the High Street – said takings were down. He said: “Takings are down since the bank and chemist left.
“Those businesses moving out had a big impact on footfall. With Burchills moving out I will be the only independent shop left on this side of Collier’s Walk.
“There needs to be some serious investment in Nailsea, at the moment it’s a bit of a concrete jungle and is dated. I don’t want to see Nailsea die. I grew up here and have businesses here.”
Another shop worker, who did not want to be named, said: “It is getting really bad down at Collier’s Walk. We don’t get as much footfall these days and Burchills moving out is a real blow as so many people used to come down here for their greengrocery.
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“With all the new houses being planned in Nailsea, there needs to be good shopping facilities in the town. Otherwise many people will just take their business to neighbouring places such as Clevedon and Portishead and Nailsea will become a ghost town.”
As well as empty shops in Collier’s Walk there are also empty units in Somerset Square after Nat West Bank and New Look closed. Owners of the town centre Praxis says it has ambitious plans to transform empty retail units and offices.
The scheme will see empty retail units on the ground floor of Somerset Square re-configured and made ‘fit for purpose’ in a bid to attract new businesses to the town. Empty office units on the first floor are to be turned into a mix of one and two bedroom flats.
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As well as Somerset Square and Colliers Walk, Praxis is working on plans to transform the site which was once home to a fuel station at Stockway South into a flats development. The site has laid vacant and fenced off for years after the fuel station was demolished.
A planning application for the changes has yet to be submitted. At the same time, there are also plans to transform the former Weston College building in Somerset Square into into apartments with a retail unit on the ground floor.
The scheme is part of ideas being put forward by Developments Bristol, headed by Paul O’Brien. Talks took place last year but so far, no plans have come forward.
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It is also possible that the town’s library building could be sold and included within the development, with the library being relocated elsewhere in Nailsea. North Somerset Council has also launched a ‘Two Towns’ initiative looking at ways to breathe new life into Nailsea.
The blueprint will set out the visions and ambitions for Clevedon and Nailsea and is being drawn up by ‘placeshaping’ agency Design West. The strategy – due to be finalised in the summer – focuses on improving the town centres of both areas over the next two decades.
Nailsea town councillor James Steel said: “As a Nailsea business owner and a town councillor it is worrying to see our local businesses closing and shop units empty. I spend most days based in Nailsea precinct and there’s no doubt that footfall has decreased so I am not surprised to hear that this is having an impact on the viability of businesses.
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“The situation isn’t unique to Nailsea with retail struggling across the country but we have shown what an amazing community we have in Nailsea and united together I am sure we can turn things around by supporting our businesses and shopping locally whenever possible.
“Strategically I’ve heard that Praxis are working hard to implement new ideas and both North Somerset and Nailsea Town Council are also in communication with them.”
Praxis Real Estate property director James Hewitt said: “As we come out of the pandemic there is significant interest in Crown Glass Shopping Centre with businesses keen to have a presence in Nailsea town centre. Eight of our units are currently in solicitors hands, with two potential operators expressing their interest in the Burchills unit.”