Hinckley is bouncing back

Published Monday, 23 May 2022

AN IMPRESSIVE nine out of ten shops in Hinckley town centre are now occupied according to the latest survey that measures occupancy in town centre business premises.

The town’s vacancy rate, which is collated using defined criteria in common with other market towns in Leicestershire, is currently 10.65% making among the lowest in the county and well below the East Midlands average of 15.1% (as verified by the British Retail Consortium, the recognised industry authority that produces data for the entire UK).

Since January this year alone, 14 new businesses have opened in town, with six more due to open shortly, boosting the town and offering even more opportunities to shop and eat locally.

Now at a time when market towns across the country face challenges to recover from the COVID pandemic and while residents and businesses everywhere are battling a cost of living crisis, the Borough Council is calling on everyone with an interest in seeing our town centre thrive to work together to seek creative solutions for where we are now.

Bill Cullen the Council’s Chief Executive said:

The COVID pandemic has had significant impact on high streets up and down the country. Through the joint work of the Council and its partners in Hinckley and through the COVID grant support provided to many businesses in the town centre, and as the latest vacancy report shows, Hinckley has weathered the storm better than most.

The town centre benefits from the strong partnership between the Borough Council and the Hinckley BID, which has formed the town Centre Partnership. Significant investment has been undertaken in delivering a comprehensive annual events programme such as a food festival, live music, the car show, children’s activities and seasonal events for the town centre to drive footfall and improve shopper experience.

Hinckley, in recent years, has seen significant transformation and investment, including the £70m Crescent shopping and leisure scheme, which includes a new bus station with a 500 space car park and the £15m new leisure centre in the heart of the town centre. This investment along with low parking tariffs, year on year free parking initiatives and the introduction of electric car charging bays have secured an overall increase in visitors to the town without creating a shortfall available parking.

Council Leader Stuart Bray said:

This is not the time to talk down the town centre. That’s why we were dismayed by a report which the Chamber of Trade has produced and published. The report is misleading and its data inaccurate. We dispute much of its findings and its conclusions.

The report also ignores key indicators such as the town’s consistently high footfall figures and repeatedly draws comparisons with areas that have little in common with Hinckley. We are particularly disappointed to see it ignores the climate emergency by championing the use of the car over people and green spaces and even proposes laying tarmac over the green areas of Argents Mead, a nationally recognised Green Flag Park, to make way for another car park.

We welcome ideas and suggestions from everyone who works, lives or trades in the town, but it is essential that we base our decisions on accurate facts and from listening to our local businesses; the flawed data, speculation and hearsay contained in this report has the potential to do more harm than good by painting a deliberately bleak picture of the town centre. This is not the time to talk down our town centre, it is a time to work collaboratively, as we are doing with the BID, to ensure the town effectively recovers and thrives for the benefit of our residents, visitors, and the great businesses we have here.