Stoke & Staffordshire

Cannock Chase town centres to get £400,000 revamp

Steve Singh
Image caption Cannock newsagent Steve Singh closed up his shop because of the high business rates

Plans to revitalise three town centres in Staffordshire have been given funding worth £400,000.

As part of the plans, Cannock and Rugeley bus stations will be upgraded and the look of Hednesford town centre will be improved.

The investment is being made by Cannock Chase council and includes £100,000 from the Mary Portas High Street Innovation fund.

The council said the cash would help bring empty shops back into use.

It said that in Cannock the number of empty units had more than doubled from 18 to 42 in three years.

The authority said it planned to give discounts on business rates for new tenants taking on empty shop units in Rugeley, Hednesford and Cannock.

"We're currently in discussions about the level of discount," said the Council's Corporate Director Tony McGovern.

"Any people that are thinking about setting up in Cannock Chase, if they want to talk us, we can see about getting their businesses going."

But newsagent Steve Singh, who closed his shop in Cannock for good on Wednesday, said that businesses "needed a lot more support".

He said: "It's not viable to run a business in the town because when I first started I was paying rates of £200 a week. That's now up to £428 which for a store of this size is ridiculous.

"It's the climate because landlords also need to make a profit but we used to have some big names in the high street.

"The problem is there's not much in Cannock to draw people in and parking charges don't help."

A £50m supermarket and retail development is already under way in Hednesford.

It includes the building of new premises for the Reserve Forces and Cadets Association, a 80,000-sq ft Tesco store and a number of new shop units.

The existing Heritage Trail which connects Market Street to Hednesford Park is also being enhanced through landscaping and improved footpaths.

The council said all proposals in the Town Centre Improvement Fund would go out for consultation with existing businesses, traders' associations, landlords and local residents.

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