DESPITE recent closures in Northwich town centre, members of the community are feeling optimistic about the town's future.

Northwich Business Improvement District (BID) says there have been some ‘really positive moves’ towards making the town centre thrive again, while Sam Naylor, councillor for Witton, and Graham Emmett, mayor, are looking forward to future plans and events.

Northwich BID says Witton Street has suffered setbacks in recent years, such as the loss of businesses nationally like Burton and Dorothy Perkins, and some independent businesses not returning after last year’s floods.

Another issue is that some of the empty shops, like the former Bratts department store, are large enough to attract business rates, which is often a barrier to start-ups and independents.

Despite this, Northwich BID project manager, Adam Gerrard, said there are reasons for residents and visitors to be optimistic about the future.

Adam said: “I’m positive for the main high street. You only have to walk from the Pound Bakery upwards and there is only one empty unit in that entire stretch. The minute any property up there comes empty, it’s filled.

“If you look at that bottom end of town, there are two new business opening down there which look to be independents, and the Bella Boutique building has a potential new tenant, as does the building across the road from it.  

“The only properties that are empty are those that attract business rates.

“With some the larger properties, if they were split down in a sensible way that meant units don’t hit the rateable value for business rates, they would let.

“With the Bratts building, we want to see that redeveloped for several smaller businesses. I’ve got people who would be ready to come in, but that £6,000 minimum can really screw up someone’s business plan.

“That part of town does get dragged down by Weaver Square, which is going to be demolished. That’s why it looks empty and derelict. It’s not a pretty sight.”

Adam believes that Northwich’s open approach to partnership working is a reason for celebration.

He said: “Northwich Town Council, Rotary Northwich, Round Table, the Baron’s Quay management agent - when we all come together, which we do on 99 per cent of the projects, it means we deliver over and above what we are meant to do."

Sam Naylor, councillor for Witton, said it was a 'sickening blow' to lose the Seafarer and Hormbrey's within just a few days, but is positive about the future of the town.

“I chair the cross-party Northwich Regeneration Forum and we have been working for years attempting to sustain and breathe new life into our town centre," he added.

“Bad news always makes the headlines but there are many good news stories to tell as well!

“We have new clients lined up to take over in Barons Quay and many new smaller independent businesses have opened in the high street.

“Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWAC), the Northwich BID (businesses) and Northwich Town Council are continuing to work together to support our businesses, to hold brilliant events and also to keep the town clean and attractive and the recent In Bloom awards are well deserved.

“We will get there with both Barons Quay and Weaver Square but in the meantime let’s continue to support our great town of Northwich and our countdown to Christmas - our Christmas Extravaganza is only a few weeks away!”

Town mayor, Graham Emmett, added: “It’s very sad that we have lost two long-standing businesses from the town centre, and I feel for those who have lost their employment."

He said while it is 'depressing' to see Weaver Square and the Market as they are now, the 'innovative' use of the new Applemarket Place has been a great success.

“Northwich is no different from many other towns in losing high street shops as shopping habits have changed, and more so since the pandemic," he continued.

“Cheshire West has had a couple of false starts with reinvigorating that area of the town centre, first with the idea of the NHS hub and then the pandemic, but the long delay has affected the confidence of businesses and shoppers.

“Hopefully the new year will see new ideas from Cheshire West for the development of Weaver Square.

“We are lucky in that we have so many attractive independent shops in Northwich – including two award winning butchers - and we all have a part to play in keeping all the shops in business.

“It’s the old adage - use it or lose it.”