Billericay High Street

Article by Guy Bell: The borough council says it wants to buy up shops in Billericay High Street to create a "unique shopping experience" and stop the area becoming a "ghost town" by day.

Leader of Basildon Borough Council, Councillor Phil Turner, explained his vision to the Gazette this week.

His announcement comes days after concerns were raised about the number of town centre shops closing down and a surge in the number of new restaurants.

Lighting shop Lamps, at 56 High Street, is set to close while women's clothing shop Retail Therapy, at 55 High Street, shut down last month.

One town councillor said he feared Billericay faced becoming "somewhere like Brentwood", suggesting the number of eateries would soon outnumber the shops.

But Cllr Phil Turner is determined to plough money into the town centre.

[quote width="auto" align="none" border="#0066cc" color="#0066cc" title="Quoted by Cllr Phil Turner"]We want to keep a vibrant High Street. That is why we are spending the money on it and why Councillor Richard Moore is doing a consultation. Billericay High Street is extremely successful and it was number one in the country for keeping its shops open. We can't afford to turn our backs on it.[/quote]

While Billericay can look forward to new £120,000 paving works, Cllr Turner says another idea is for the council to invest in the vacant units.

[quote width="auto" align="none" border="#0066cc" color="#0066cc" title="Quoted by Cllr Phil Turner"]We are looking at what we can do extra and one thing is for the council to buy shops in Billericay. I want us to own the High Street. That is what I want us to do. This is my vision.[/quote]

'Unique shopping experience'

[quote width="auto" align="none" border="#0066cc" color="#0066cc" title="Quoted by Cllr Phil Turner"]We can't compete with Bluewater and Lakeside but we can encourage the unique shopping experience. This is why I want to buy the shops. I want to encourage smaller enterprises.[/quote]

And the council leader has placed great importance on maintaining a good balance between shops and restaurants and believes it is rents that are forcing some shops out of business.

[quote width="auto" align="none" border="#0066cc" color="#0066cc" title="Quoted by Cllr Phil Turner"]Before me, there were banks and building societies but now there are butchers and retailers. Retail Therapy had a really good offering and what has killed that is not just the base rates, but the rents as well. I think we have got a good balance but we need to be careful. If there are more pubs and clubs then that could tip the balance.[/quote]

Brentwood has seen it's night time economy thrive in recent years, partly due to the success of reality TV show The Only Way is Essex.

Several town centre eateries have enjoyed a revamp, including the Slug and Lettuce, while Wetherspoon has opened its first pub in the town.

Restaurant chain Wildwood is set to open a large restaurant later this year.

Original article by Guy Bell, Billericay Gazette

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