The councillor in charge of regenerating Kettering’s town centre says there is little the authority can do to stop big names shutting up shop.
Earlier this week we revealed New Look was the latest to confirm it was leaving the High Street, adding to a raft of high-profile closures.
M&S, Burton, Game, Topshop and more have all left in the past 12 months with residents taking to social media to complain that there was nothing left worth coming to town for.
On our Facebook page Kelly Marie Marchant said: “Kettering is just becoming a ghost town. Such a shame!”
And Polly Nicholson said: “Soon be no reason to visit the town.”
Kettering Council has faced criticism over the series of closures but Cllr Mark Dearing, the council’s portfolio holder for regeneration, said they could only do so much to prevent them.
He said: “I genuinely do not believe this is anything to do with Kettering.
“It’s to do with their [shops’] policy.
“We have no control over business rates, we are not the landowners and we do not set rent.
“We cannot do anything other than try and support them.”
Cllr Dearing said he was genuinely concerned by the closures but laid the blame at the door of the shops that are putting their efforts into online sales rather than High Streets.
He said: “The big issue is that the big boys are concentrating on online, they’re not concentrating on the shops.
“We can’t do a lot about that.”
He added that the council was working hard with outside bodies and that one of the most important things was that they have people living in the town centre.
Opposition leader Cllr Mick Scrimshaw (Lab) previously criticised the council for its laissez faire approach to town centre improvements.
He’s again called for the council not to just sit back and to take a forward-thinking approach.
He said: “We all known town centres are changing but we need a vision for what ours will look like.
“It is not enough to just accept that retail is dying.”
The Labour leader accepted that town centres everywhere were facing problems but said that was no excuse to sit back.
He said: “The question that remains for me is what else needs to close before the council will act?
“We cannot sit back and let more and more shops close.”