Cowgate Rent Reduction Call to Kickstart Revival

08:19 Thursday 21st July 2011
Peterborough Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PAUL STAINTON: Plans to regenerate Cowgate, Bridge Street and Long Causeway are going on show today. The aim is to make the areas more pedestrian-friendly, restore historic buildings and encourage independent shops. Now Steve Bowyer is Head of Economic Development at Opportunity Peterborough, He was on earlier. He said the plans are designed to increase footfall on Cowgate. (TAPE)
STEVE BOWYER: I have shown investors down Cowgate, and they liked the street, they think it looks good, it works well, but a lot of the comment is about footfall. So anything we can do to drive footfall, to make it a more interesting place .. and we’ve seen what footfall’s done in Cathedral Square. If we can get that down Cowgate, and attract the businesses, because businesses as we’ve said before, businesses follow people. And if this really inspires that area, it’s got to be good news. (LIVE)
PAUL STAINTON: Well John Drewnicki is Chairman of the Cowgate Traders Association. Morning John.
JOHN DREWNICKI: Good morning.
PAUL STAINTON: What do you think of the plans?
JOHN DREWNICKI: Well they’re overdue, because the area’s been allowed to deteriorate since Queensgate was built. Any improvement is more than welcome, obviously, to generate more business in the area. I think the number of empty shops in Cowgate speaks for itself.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. Exactly. It’s a bit of a ghost street at the moment, isn’t it. And it’s so close to the city centre. Businesses don’t seem to be able to survive down there.
JOHN DREWNICKI: One of the disappointing decisions made recently has been obviously not to have a mall entrance in King Street, which is often described as a Berlin Wall.
PAUL STAINTON: This is the back of .. for people that don’t really know what we’re talking about .. the back of Argos there.
JOHN DREWNICKI: Yes. Yes. And that would have allowed full integration. Really it’s the last area that hasn’t got full integration, around the perimeter of Queensgate.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. And that’s a bit of a body blow. But they’re talking about here pedestrianisation .. not pedestrianisation, but making it pedestrian-friendly. They’re talking about attracting independent shops down there. But I made the point earlier quite forcefully with Steve, independent shops can’t survive on £20/25,000 a year rent, and £800/1000 a month rates.
JOHN DREWNICKI: Absolutely right. How you get by that I don’t know at this stage. The more shops that move in, it might entice others to move in. It’s just the number of shops that are empty which is obviously a deterrent.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. And of course because there are empty shops, there’s no footfall. So it’s a Catch 22. Shops won’t come in because there’s no footfall. And there’s no footfall because there are no shops.
JOHN DREWNICKI: Yes. One of the pleasing things that the City Council are doing, they’re improving the subway from the railway station, so that people who are visiting the city, and particularly people who want to go to the Cathedral, which is our main attraction, use Cowgate.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. Would you, as I said to Steve earlier, would you say to the people that own the properties in Cowgate, look, drop the rents a bit? Drop the rents, then the rates come down, because they’re all based on the rent aren’t they? So the rates will come down along with the rent. At least fill your shops. Get some traders in there.
JOHN DREWNICKI: Yes. It’s certainly a good idea. In fact to be quite frank, I think most property owners at this present time would drop their rent, because they’re having to pay rates on empty properties.
PAUL STAINTON: What do you think, say an independent, I don’t know, underwear shop, wanted to come and open in Cowgate. Say in that City and Counties, empty City and Counties shop, what would be a reasonable rent for that business to survive there, and therefore pay rates and rent? What do you think? £10,000? £12,000?
JOHN DREWNICKI: Well, to give them a kick-start, I would have thought £5,000, progressing upwards.
PAUL STAINTON: And if you’ve got £5,000, and it’s a small enough shop, you won’t pay rates for now, will you, because there’s a Government deal on at the minute. So you think £5,000 per year to give them a kick-start, and then what? Progressing upwards as they get ..
JOHN DREWNICKI: Yes. Because, to be honest, in recent years rates have risen. A lot of them are not far behind the rentals.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. Are you confident these plans will help John?
JOHN DREWNICKI: Yes, they certainly will. Because obviously widening pavements, pedestrianising King Street, anything is a help.
PAUL STAINTON: John, thank you for coming on this morning. I hope we’re doing our bit to give a kick up the backside to some of the people that have got something to do with Cowgate, and hopefully people that own some properties down there will listen to what John had to say this morning. Get your rents down. £5000. £6000 for the first year. Get some shops down there. Let’s get the city vibrant in the centre. Opportunity Peterborough are doing their bit. They’re going to do a bit of pedestrianisation, widen the pavements. If you own shops down there, and you’re listening to this show this morning, come on. It’s better to have them full than empty, isn’t it?