More needs to be done, or we will turn into a ghost town...

Just one of the vacant units: La Casa Caterina restaurant on Chapel Brow
Just one of the vacant units: La Casa Caterina restaurant on Chapel Brow

Special investigation into the number of empty shops in Leyland

LEYLAND is in danger of being turned into a ghost town, without extra investment.

That’s the message from traders in response to a special Leyland Guardian investigation into the number of empty shops in the town.

A short walk around Towngate, Hough Lane, Chapel Brow and Turpin Green Lane found no fewer than 20 closed premises. They include a former solicitor’s office, clothes shops and a hairdresser who has relocated from Leyland to Hough Lane.

The premises have been closed for varying lengths of time but were previously occupied by a range of independent businesses and national chains. Business owners say South Ribble Council needs to get its priorities right after spending £300,000 on town centre improvements.

The reintroduction of the Leyland Clock and the installation of the Leyland Wheel at the Churchill Way roundabout have been broadly welcomed, but traders say more needs to be done to fill the empty shops.

Paul Atkinson, 33, sales manager at Atkinson’s Jewellers, on Hough Lane, said: “I thought Leyland was picking up with a few men’s clothes shops moving into Hough Lane.

“However, there are others such as Ethel Austin that have closed down, which in the past brought business to Leyland.I don’t think that Leyland is going to attract the big name high street stores because the units are so small for them.

“Then, if the smaller traders want to take over a site they are finding that the business rates are too high and cannot afford to stay.

“We have been here for 33 years and have a good customer base, who keep coming back to us.

“They have been talking about regeneration of Leyland town centre for years.

“All they have done is put a statue and the clock up near the roundabout on Hough Lane, but that is not going to make me come into Leyland to spend my birthday or Christmas money.

“Hopefully, if Wetherspoons come to the former Spar shop then there will be more business down this half of Hough Lane because it can be like a ghost town at 2.30pm in the afternoon.”

Shaun Reeve, 21, owner of Radio Racers on Hough Lane, said: “It is bad news in the current economic climate that there is a high number of empty shops.

“I know the council has been actively trying to improve the other side of Hough Lane near the market and they are trying to get value for money.

“We could really do with some big high-street stores, and I don’t know if any of the £300,000 that is being spent on the Leyland Gates and pavements could be used to do that.

“I don’t want to think about what would happen to the town centre if the banks were not here, because there are not that many businesses that bring shoppers to town.

“I think there are lots of cafes, which are good for people to visit when they are here, but they won’t just come to Leyland for them.”

Coun Phil Smith, lead member for regeneration, leisure, and health and communities, said: “There is a lot of work taking place on economic regeneration of Leyland and we are helping the shopkeepers in the town centre.

“Leyland Market is council-run which is currently 100 per cent full, and we have a waiting list of people trying to get onto the market.

“Our economic regeneration team are working hard with small businesses and the council has just adopted a small business charter to help firms take over shops in the town .

“We actively promote the reduction of business rates which is a government initiative and there have been a high number of businesses doing it.”

Empty shops:

Hough Lane

Former Buchanans shoe store

Former Blue Boutique shop

Former Parkinsons Bakery shop

Former Nichola Jayne clothes shop

Former Ethel Austin shop

Former Will Foran hairdressing salon

Former Leyland tiles shop

Former Cheshire Building Society

Former Spar shop

Former Towry Law solicitors unit

Towngate and Church Road

Former Debra furnishing charity shop

Former Raven, Dixon and Marsden solicitors

Former Multi-bike shop

Empty shop behind Vets for Pets (near Tesco)

Former Beauty saloon beside Leyland Cross fish and chip shop (Tesco)

Former health shop on Church Road

Chapel Brow

La Cassa Caterina restaurant

Turpin Green Lane

Former Launder–it shop

Former Launderette beside Turpin Green Stores

Former fabric and furnishing shop