High Street set for change

PUBLISHED: 12:16 22 February 2013 | UPDATED: 12:26 22 February 2013

Honiton Town Council discusses internet competition, business rates and rents.

The future of the High Street has been questioned by councillors in Honiton.

During a meeting of Honiton Town Council, concerns were raised surrounding internet competition, changing shopping trends and the problems of high business rates and rents faced by businesses in the town.

Councillor Liz Tirard said: “Business rates and rents are two major problems for High Street businesses.

“Is there anything East Devon District Council can do to help?”

Councillor Mike Allen added: “I think the whole business of high streets is far more complex than business rates.

“I am always open to looking at re-adjusting business rates and financial situations.

“There are various schemes that different councils have.”

He explained that commercial rents are not always set locally and suggested businesses look closely at their rents and rates. Cllr Allen also suggested that councils needed to work closely with businesses and the chamber of commerce to fight wrong evaluations and discuss reasonable rates with owners.

He said: “To be frank, the problem with the high street is so much bigger - businesses have got to make themselves viable so that rents can be paid.”

Cllr Tirard raised concerns regarding empty business units, particularly in Lace Walk and felt something should be done to stop properties being empty for long periods of time.

Councillor John Zarczynski said: “More and more have turned to shopping on the internet simply because of the prices and choice.

“You can go on the internet and buy almost anything.”

He added: “As much as I support the High Street, it would be a terrible shame to see it disappear – we have to brace ourselves, the fact is the High Street is going to change dramatically over the next five years.

“I don’t think there is a lot we can do to save the High Street in its present form.”

Cllr Zarczynski felt things needed to be made easier for shopkeepers by reducing overheads, for example.

He said: “Shopping trends are changing.”

Cllr Allen questioned internet sales on certain types of products, such as a new pair of shoes, as, he said, it is not always easy for some shoppers to find the correct size and fitting.

He added: “The High Street must change and it will have to change dramatically, there is no doubt about it, and we should be there to help our chamber of commerce.”

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