Mason Moore | Hinckley Reporter | 23 May 2022
NINE out of ten shops in Hinckley town centre are now occupied, according to statistics from a recent survey which measures occupancy in town centre business premises.
Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council (HBBC) have revealed that the town’s vacancy rate is currently at 10.65 per cent, meaning it is ‘among the lowest in Leicestershire’ – and “well below” the average of 15.1 per cent average for the East Midlands.
Details of the vacancy rates have been collated using a defined criteria in common with other Leicestershire market towns. The figures have been verified by the British Retail Consortium, the “go-to” trade association for all retailers in the United Kingdom.
Since January, just four months ago, an impressive total of 14 new businesses have set up shop across Hinckley.
And, six more new ventures are confirmed to be opening in town ‘shortly’, which will help to boost the town and offer town-goers and visitors more opportunities to shop and eat locally.
As towns are recovering from the COVID pandemic, and users and businesses are battling the cost of living crisis, the Council is calling on everyone with an interesting in seeing town thrive to work together to seek creative solutions for where they are now.
‘Weathered the storm better than most’
Bill Cullen, the Borough Council’s Chief Executive, said: “The COVID pandemic has had significant impact on high streets up and down the country.
“Through the joint work of the Council and its partners in Hinckley and through the COVID grant support provided to many businesses in the town centre, and as the latest vacancy report shows, Hinckley has weathered the storm better than most.”
Hinckley town centre benefits from the strong partnership between the Borough Council and Hinckley BID, which has formed the Town Centre Partnership.
A significant investment has been put into building Hinckley’s high street footfall with a ‘comprehensive’ annual events programme, helping to deliver a range of ever-popular and much-loved events.
These include a classic car show, a two-day-long food festival, activities for children, and seasonal events.
Crescent and Leisure Centre bringing in visitors
In recent years, Hinckley has seen a significant transformation and investment which has been welcomed by residents and even those paying a visit from out of town.
The £70M Crescent shopping and leisure development has provided more retail outlets and restaurants for people to use, and has made the town more accessible to visitors, with a new bus station created on part of the former Brunel Road site.
And, in the nearby Argents Mead park, £15M of funds helped develop the new Hinckley Leisure Centre, which was erected in Argents Mead on the former Council office site, which includes a gym, soft play area, swimming lanes, and squash courts.
A Council spokesperson added: “This investment, along with low parking tariffs, year-on-year free parking initiatives, and new electric car charging bays, have secured an overall increase in visitors to the town without creating a shortfall available parking.”
Council Leader slams Chamber of Trade
However, despite this good news, Stuart Bray, Leader of Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council, has slammed another retail body – the Chamber of Trade – for a recently-produced report, which he has branded “misleading”.
Speaking on the Chamber of Trade report, Bray stressed: “It is not time to talk down the town centre.
“That’s why we were dismayed by a report which the Chamber of Trade has produced and published. The report is misleading and its data inaccurate. We dispute much of its findings and its conclusions.”
“The report also ignores key indicators such as the town’s consistently high footfall figures and repeatedly draws comparisons with areas that have little in common with Hinckley.
He continued: “We are particularly disappointed to see it ignores the climate emergency by championing the use of the car over people and green spaces, and even proposes laying tarmac over the green areas of Argents Mead, a nationally recognised Green Flag Park, to make way for another car park.”
“We welcome ideas and suggestions from everyone who works, lives or trades in the town, but it is essential that we base our decisions on accurate facts and from listening to our local businesses.
Bray concluded: “The flawed data, speculation and hearsay contained in this report has the potential to do more harm than good by painting a deliberately bleak picture of the town centre.
“This is not the time to talk down our town centre, it is a time to work collaboratively, as we are doing with the BID, to ensure the town effectively recovers and thrives for the benefit of our residents, visitors, and the great businesses we have here.”