The mayor of Salisbury has spoken out about the need to fill the city's empty shops and ensure it maintains its "vibrant and quirky" character.

Mayor of Salisbury, Cllr Caroline Corbin, said this week that something should be done about business rates on retail properties.

Earlier this week, an independent shopkeeper called for support to stay afloat after seeing his takings plummet as a result of scaffolding that had been erected on the empty premises next door.

David Gladden of Timber Treasures, at 1 High Street, pays more than £1000 in rates on the property and said: "It's too much. We don't get the footfall to justify it, there's all the noise of traffic, and we get added nuisances like the scaffolding."

Read more: Novichok, Covid, high rates, and scaffolding: Salisbury shop makes plea for help

Salisbury mayor and Bemerton Heath councillor said: "We need to do something about the business rates on the properties, because they are set far too high.

"I think the Treasury and our lovely MP John Glen need to step up to the plate and do something to mitigate losses and fill those shops back up.

"Nobody is going to come to a city if it's a ghost town. They will come because it's vibrant and quirky.

"There's so much need in Salisbury to move forward and progress."

Read more: 6 shops that Salisbury used to have (and we all miss)

The Conservative MP for Salisbury and South Wiltshire, John Glen, responded to the criticism by saying that the city has "outperformed every other town and city in the country" in the number of shoppers post-lockdown.

In a statement, the MP said: "At the end of July this year, the Ipsos Retail Recovery Index named Salisbury as the top bounce-back city in the entire United Kingdom. This was based on the increase in the number of shoppers entering retail companies in Salisbury since shops reopened on April 12.

"Given the country-leading performance of our retail sector, it is disappointing to see people talk down our city and suggest becoming a ‘ghost town’ is a possibility.

"We must never be complacent but we have outperformed every other town and city in the country this year and, with a number of new retail outlets opening recently, I am confident we will continue to go from strength to strength but I will work with all residents on constructive ideas for how Salisbury can prosper."

With regard to vacancy and business rates in the city, Salisbury BID, the business improvement district for the city centre, has also praised the strength of the city's post-lockdown recovery.

The BID's Chief Executive Robin McGowan said: "We all know the pandemic has hit businesses hard but Salisbury's resilience is shining through.

"It was named top bounce back city in the UK and vacancy rates here are 2% lower than both the regional and UK average.

"Salisbury's figures have held steady over the last year, whereas rates have risen nationally.

"Even a global pandemic hasn't stopped entrepreneurs choosing Salisbury as a base and we have been thrilled to welcome new businesses to the city centre. Artisan Wine & Spirits Co, Clearway Pets, The Salisbury Office - these are just a few of those that have appeared on our streets over the last year, with more on the way.

"Recovery will take time and the BID would welcome any changes that make Salisbury more economically viable for businesses."


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