Boost for Bideford

BIDEFORD is on the up, if current demand for shop space is anything to go by.

Once empty premises in the town centre are now filling up to such an extent that they are becoming hard to find.

And with town enhancement projects due to start soon, the future is looking brighter.

Chamber of Commerce president Jayne Maynard said: “I am aware of several empty shops which are about to re-open. In Mill Street there are now only two empty shops and I know what is going in one of them. There are definitely new shops opening up and some already have.

“This shows a greater confidence in town centre trading. One thing about Bideford is its varied range of independent retailers and this just adds to that.”

She had had contact from the district council, looking for premises for an art project, but struggling to find a shop window, and had also taken a call only this week from someone outside of the area wanting to open a shop in Bideford, but struggling to find one available, she said.

“It is good news to see the shops filling up and rising confidence in Bideford.”

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But it was not all rosy. There was work to do if Bideford was to make the best of its opportunities, she said.

“Footfall in the town is not as good as it should be. There are lots of things we must do to bring people back into the town. We must make sure that shoppers come to Bideford and continue to do so.

“Planned improvements over the next 12 -18months will aid that. Plans for Jubilee Square are due to start in January and will bring added attraction to that part of the town.

“But there remain issues such as the cost of car parking, which detracts from people popping into the town to buy lower-value goods and we want people visiting the Atlantic Village to also come down into the town and realise what Bideford has to offer.”

Bideford Rotary Club is among those caught up in the demand for shops.

Spokesman Chris Blanchard said: “When Bideford Rotary president James Corkery decided in June that the club should have a charity shop in the town centre he had plenty of large empty shops to choose from. But a change has come over Bideford since then and, one by one, suitable formerly empty shops have been let, are trading or are being developed.

“Only a few weeks to go before the planned opening on November 29 and Bideford Rotary have everything else organised - a free van collection, a telephone donation line on (01237) 428224, a warehouse, experienced volunteers - but no shop yet!

The club is sure something will turn up, however, and wants anyone who would like to donate good, clean surplus clothing, furniture, books, china etc, to telephone the donation line.

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