One of Shaftesbury’s most complained about properties will be soon be renovated.
Edinburgh Woollen Mill closed their High Street shop in the New Year. Alfred spoke with the Chamber of Commerce, who are delighted that their calls for redecoration have been finally heard.
“I think it’s fantastic news that it’s going to be prettied. It’s a big building. At the moment, it’s an eyesore,” said Shaftesbury Chamber of Commerce Vice-Chairman, David Perry. He has frequently asked for work to improve the appearance of 38 High Street. Two years ago, locals were so upset at foliage sprouting from the front of building, they borrowed a ladder and removed it themselves!
“We have been in touch with the agents, James & Son, who are down in Poole. One of the things I pointed out was the dilapidation. The agent came back to us very quickly afterwards. He had obviously been on to the owner of the building. As we understand it, the landlord is taking it into his own hands to renovate the property, and it’s going to cost him six figures,” said David.
Mr Perry understands that there has been an impasse caused by a disagreement over who is responsible for the repair work. The agent politely declined Alfred’s offer of an interview but, next Tuesday, Shaftesbury Town Council will discuss a formal application to refurbish this Grade II listed property. The proposed works include replacing two heavily decayed dormer windows, redecorating the front façade, masonry repairs and works to improve the two-bedroom flat that occupies part of first and second floors.
The planning application states that the refurbishment of the high-profile property would return the accommodation to a ‘marketable standard’. “I think they understands that, un-renovated, they have got very little chance of letting it. Renovating it, they have a good chance,” said David.
The applicant writes, “Given the size of the accommodation, it’s hoped that an established and respected business will take a lease and become an integral part of a thriving High Street and draw more shoppers to the area.”
The rental rate might well deter smaller operators, though. “It’s about £50,000 a year and there would be business rates on top of that, possibly £15,000 to £20,000 a year. It’s a fair old outlay,” said David.
Mr Perry says he’s pleased that the agent responded to the Chamber’s request to remove dated window posters placed in the empty shop. They were promoting a circus back in March.
David was told that a non-retail business would possibly snap up the space. “The agent said he could let it tomorrow as a commercial building. Getting a retailer into something that size might be a bigger struggle.”
But the proposed Shaftesbury Neighbourhood plan, which so far has been inspected by 421 visitors to a pop-up shop across the road, urges planners to resist the replacement of ground-floor shopping and retail space with other business uses. There are concerns that changing shops to office or commercial premises could affect the vibrancy of Shaftesbury’s High Street.
It’s understood that exterior renovation of Ladbrokes betting office, lower down the High Street, is also being planned.
David believes the clean-up of the former Edinburgh Woollen Mill could be considered a victory, in part, for the Chamber of Commerce. “I would like to think that putting pressure on the agent, and then the agent then expressing our worries to the landlord, has actually made something happen.”