BUSINESS owners have expressed fears a town centre is “dying”.
Traders in Shotton have said a mixture of business rates, parking problems and decline in footfall is “destroying the town centre”.
They have warned that, without immediate action, the high street on Chester Road West would soon look like it belongs in a ghost town.
Andrew Walton, owner of Premier Discounts on the high street, said soaring business rates mean his shop may not last longer than a year.
He said: “They are destroying the town centre.
“There are that many properties closing down. I personally have to pay about £812 a month for a small place with very little footfall.
“There was a place over the road that closed down because the rates were so extortionate and there was another one that moved out because of the rates. It is having a major impact.
”He said traders were being given no help with keeping the town centre alive.“Why aren’t we getting help? There is no help whatsoever,” added Mr Walton, who has owned his store for about 12 years.
“Nothing is happening, nobody has been anywhere near Shotton. It’s just ridiculous.
”Mr Walton said as businesses continued to close, jobs were being lost.
“I used to have six girls working for me but that’s impossible now,” he said.
”Debbie Fletcher, owner of Rainbow Beauty in Shotton, described the situation as “shambolic”.
She said: “The place is dying, it really is.“We don’t get what I call passing trade – anything we get is by appointments.
”She said in her two years running the shop, she had never seen such a bad situation.
“At one stage I thought we were going to be getting a market which would have helped, but I don’t think we can,” she added.
“I feel as though we have been left because we might not have the room here to put markets on and we can’t close the main road, but I don’t think we have had any help at all.
“I think it’s worrying for a lot of the shop owners here. We have probably had the worst year and we have had a disastrous couple of months.”
Alyn and Deeside MP Mark Tami MP said: “Smaller retailers will only survive if we use them and not just buy everything from the supermarkets.
“Traffic congestion is a particular problem in Shotton leading to many avoiding the route.
“This has a knock-on effect to the retailers in the area. I will work with the council to do all we can to save our high streets.” A Welsh Government spokesman said: “Business rates have not yet been fully devolved to Wales.
“However, the Welsh Government has taken a number of actions to support businesses in town centres.
“This has included providing small business rate relief to many business across Wales and the launch of the Open for Business scheme, which offers business rate relief to occupiers who take on long-term empty properties.”
Cllr Derek Butler, Flintshire Council’s cabinet member for economic development, said the authority has no role in deciding what level of rates are set, neither does it retain the revenues generated.
He said: “The regeneration of town centres is a strategic priority for Flintshire Council. Town centres will always have some level of vacancy and turnover of units, however, increasing levels of vacancy and long-term vacancies are of concern nationally and for some Flintshire town centres and we are working with partners to see how it can play its part in helping to improve the situation.
Cllr Butler said that through the Town Action Plan programme the council has been successful in securing funding from European programmes and as a result is able to invest £1.9m in 2014 and 2015 in the physical environment of Flintshire’s towns.
He added: “The council has also submitted a bid to the Welsh Government Vibrant and Viable Places programme for Deeside and, as part of an ambitious regeneration package for the area, a series of projects have been proposed to encourage investment in the town centres.
“The council has requested £15m from Welsh Government which would, if approved, see substantial benefits coming to Deeside towns in terms of physical improvements, new jobs, business investment and transport improvements.”