A newly-formed Town Team intends to deal with the retail areas of Kidderminster town centre which have suffered with shops either closing or relocating.

A meeting of the new body, formed by Wyre Forest District Council’s town centres manager Peter Michael, focused on initial ideas for regeneration.

Kidderminster, like so many towns throughout the country, has seen the development of retail parks having a serious effect on traditional high streets and town centre shopping areas, which have attracted shoppers because of the major stores which have been situated in the high street.

For years, Merry Hill Retail Park has attracted many shoppers from the Kidderminster area, and it was good that Crossley Retail Park and Weavers Wharf were developed in Kidderminster.

It meant that people no longer had to travel to Dudley, but are able to visit many of the major retail brands now established in Kidderminster.

With many large supermarkets also within the town centre area, the shopping experience the public demand is now all here.

It is well known that shops which were the high street giants, have developed a policy such that the majority of their stores will be located on retail parks, as opposed to being in the high street.

All this has led to the outstanding success of Crossley Retail Park and Weavers Wharf, but at the expense of the old town centre.

The newly formed ‘Town Team’ represents a wide range of those connected with the town centre.

Being one of the main agents dealing with shops in the town centre, Doolittle & Dalley will be a member and other members include managers of the large retail shops, representatives from large local groups, councillors and everyone who has input into the way in which the town centre operates.

Many events including the Canalside Festival and establishing a farmers market are all intended to draw the public into the centre, but this alone will not solve the problem with empty shops in High Street, Worcester Street and Coventry Street.

At the last count, I identified 13 empty shops, vacated by companies who have re-located onto Weavers Wharf or who have hit hard times and are no longer trading.

Unfortunately, during these difficult times, retailing is going to continue to suffer and as internet trading companies become more popular, the switch to internet shopping is only going to lead further to the demise of some traditional high street shops.

Life needs to be introduced into the town centre and the planning authorities need to have a very flexible and accommodating approach to any proposals which may be put forward to introduce new occupiers into the town centre.

Apart from empty shops there is also an abundance of empty offices, which ultimately may need to be converted into residential accommodation, and a new planning policy needs to be adopted, such that those prepared to invest their capital into such town centre schemes have guidelines to work to.