MAJOR retailers have slammed the running of Nuneaton town centre and have expressed huge concern that it is on the decline.
The businesses, which simply want to be known as Nuneaton's major retail stakeholders, have hit out at Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council.
They have raised a number of issues including the high level of empty shops in the town, the Mary Portas Pilot bid for both Nuneaton and Bedworth, the declining number of market stall holders, the lack of police presence and much more.
But leader of the local authority, councillor Dennis Harvey, has hit back at some of the claims which he calls 'untrue'.
In a statement the retailers said: "In the recent Javelin Group report Nuneaton was identified as being on the brink of decline.
"Since the closure of TJ Hughes the only interest in the unit has been from Poundland with rumours of Poundworld taking over Marks and Spencer. Nuneaton town centre has a higher than average number of charity shops which result in, for those owned by the local authority, that they do not have to pay business rates, but this does not attract major quality retailers coming into Nuneaton.
"Nuneaton has an award winning market which brings people into the town, this accounts for only two days of the week with declining numbers of market stall holders and footfall within the town declining steadily.
"Another major concern is the town has a lack of police presence and is dependant on the Police Community Support Officers. Councillors have criticised retailers within the town for the lack of partnership and support - specifically not contributing towards the cost of the towns CCTV system. It should be highlighted that less than nine per cent of the CCTV cameras cover Nuneaton town centre.
"At a recent Town Centre Partnership Board meeting a presentation was made regarding a Business Improvement District for the town centre. Previous attempts to discuss or advance on this have been met with opposition by the leader of the local authority, Dennis Harvey.
"The retailers feel it is time to put party politics to one side and stop criticising opposing parties and start working towards making Nuneaton a better town.
"In order for the town to meet the current challenges it will need a strong commitment to assist all of the stakeholders within the town in regaining their place as a popular shopping destination within Warwickshire."
The retailers also highlighted the fact that the Mary Portas Pilot bid to apply for £100,000 to spend on projects in the town centre was submitted to the government in a joint bid for Nuneaton and Bedworth, something that they were not happy about.
In response Cllr Dennis Harvey said he wanted to set the record straight and was angered by the `anonymous' attack.
“Nuneaton is actually holding its own in comparison to the national picture during these troubling economic times and I believe it’s important to recognise that a lot of the closures which we have seen in the borough are the result of national chains falling into administration," he said.
“To my knowledge none of the charity shops in Nuneaton town centre are in units owned by the borough council and it is the government, not the local authority, which dictates how much discount charity shops get on their rates. One of Nuneaton town centres’ biggest assets is the award winning market which is hugely popular and the fact that it is so difficult to get a parking space on market days is testament to that fact. The market brings a huge footfall into the town and the council has committed £30,000 to refurbish both Nuneaton’s and Bedworth’s markets to make sure they remain at such a high standard for visitors."
He also highlighted the ongoing entertainment laid on at weekends, which are to run from now until Christmas.
He added: “The Mary Portas bid was submitted to bring further investment into the borough but we would never have been able to choose just one town over the other as the council has an equal commitment to both Nuneaton and Bedworth and has dedicated £25,000 towards renovating the town centres.
“It was claimed that at a recent Town Centre Partnership meeting I opposed a Business Improvement District (BID). That is completely untrue and I have made it clear that if retailers are happy to come forward with resources towards setting up a BID then the council will match them in order to make it happen. In order to keep growing there needs to be a commitment from the retailers as well as the council and sometimes that is not forthcoming. For example, at the recent council budget we put in thousands of pounds to purchase new Christmas lights and asked the retailers to assist with this, and with the notable exception of Loveitts, there has been little response.
“I find it odd that the concerns raised by the ‘major town centre retailers’ were not put to me directly as the vice chairman of the Town Centre Partnership and would hope that in future people are able to raise any issues they have in the correct forum.”