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PM urged to help fight to revive our high street

By The Cornishman  |  Posted: March 07, 2013

  • Left to right: Arnaud Reutsch, Penzance and District Tourism Association, deputy mayor David Nebesnuick, Councillor Caroline White, mayor Phil Rendle, Councillor Jon Pender, town and county councillor Tamsin Williams, Dick Cliffe, chairman of Penzance Chamber of Commerce, Councillor Mike Lovegrove and Councillor Malcolm Lawrence who are backing The Cornishman's plea for David Cameron to visit Penzance. PZPM20130304A-001_C.JPG

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THE CORNISHMAN is appealing to the most powerful man in the country in a bid to help boost the fortunes of Penzance high street.

We are calling on David Cameron to visit Penzance and see for himself the hard work of local people to keep our town flourishing in the face of economic instability.

Our plea is backed by town leaders, traders and the public who are joining a growing chorus of people demanding help from the Prime Minister.

"We have to tell David Cameron about our town, what it needs and what he should be doing for us and future generations," said town mayor Phil Rendle.

"He needs to talk to the people. He won't find out anything until he talks to the people."

The move to bring Mr Cameron to Penzance comes as the town continues to struggle against issues affecting our high street. From high business rates to problem car parking charges and an increase in out-of-town shopping, traders are being hit from all sides.

But the town is refusing to be beaten. A Town Team has been established to fight for Penzance high street and includes members of the chamber of commerce, Civic Society, Causewayhead Traders' Association, Penwith College, Penzance and District Tourism Association, Future Penzance, the town council and Wharfside Shopping Centre. So far the group has pushed the launch of a new map detailing local shops and attractions, and is also co-ordinating the introduction of a new outdoor market.

Each year the community also comes together for events like St Piran's Day and the hugely successful Golowan, which is said to pump £1.5 million into Cornwall – half of which directly benefits Penzance businesses.

But despite these best efforts, shops are continuing to close and people are choosing to spend their money elsewhere.

This is where David Cameron comes in. If he could come to Penzance and talk to traders and local people, he would be able to see what is happening – not just on our high street but in towns across the country.

Currently there are around 30 empty shops, around 10 per cent, in Penzance town centre, according to Peter Wood, manager of Wharfside Shopping Centre.

He has been keeping tabs on closed stores for around six months and says despite the number, it is still below the national average of around 14.2 per cent. The number of empty shops in Penzance has risen slightly but we have also had one or two open," said Mr Wood, who added that he was concerned empty stores were taking longer to fill.

"On the other hand, we have had five or six companies applying to take over a café space at Wharfside and it will go to a local trader. For years big companies have kept smaller ones off the high street but now I believe it will instead become full of local entrepreneurs."

Shoppers have also shown their support for a visit by signing a petition asking Mr Cameron to travel to Penzance for crunch talks. So far around 100 people have signed up.

"People think something needs to be done," said Jim Champion, of Ian Lentern butchers, Chapel Street, one of a number of independent traders backing The Cornishman's request for a visit.

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