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BBC’s Question Time Comment on Bridgwater’s Empty Shops

Saturday 18th November, 2023

Joint Statement from Bridgwater Chamber of Commerce, Bridgwater Town Council and Bridgwater Town Team.

The comment made on BBC’s Question Time on Thursday 16 November stating that 1 in 2 shops in Bridgwater are empty is categorially untrue. In fact, Bridgwater recently has seen several long-term empty shop units reopen with new businesses.

The national average of empty shops across Great Britain, the British Retail Consortium reported the following statistics in the first quarter of 2023:

  • The High Street vacancy rate was 13.8%
  • Shopping centre store vacancies was 17.8%
  • Retail Park vacancies were 8.7%. (British Retail Consortium, 2023).

Bridgwater town centre has around 200 shops and around 15 are vacant equating to a 7.5% vacancy rate.

There are several organisations that have been working hard over the last 13 years to assist businesses in the town centre after some big-name High-Street brands pulled out in March 2010.  Bridgwater Town Council, formerly Sedgemoor District Council, Bridgwater Town Team along with the Bridgwater Town Deal and Bridgwater Retail group, part of Bridgwater Chamber of Commerce has all recognised the difficulties on the High Street. Thes organisations have had funding and continue to fund positive events which overall have improved Bridgwater Town Centre.

There is funding available for new and existing businesses to help with the shop front in the form of a grant from Bridgwater Town Team. The Friday market has been increasing steadily, The Bridgwater Food Festival now runs 4 times a year along with the Independent Market on Sundays throughout the year.  More events are planned for 2024 with funding from Bridgwater Town Deal.

There is a lot of investment happening in Bridgwater, the old Hospital site on Salmon parade is about to get a £19m re-development into a Care training centre and mixed residential which will transform that end of town. The Town Deal Fund is bringing £23.2m of investment across 11 projects in and around the town centre to improve places and spaces which is making Bridgwater a better place. There is also the £130m River Barrage just starting without mentioning Gravity campus or HPC.

This is an exciting time to be living in Bridgwater and the community of Bridgwater is and should be together to showcase what an amazing place Bridgwater is.

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