Ghost Town: Business owners plead for help to promote Old Town

Business owners are worried at the lack of footfall in High Street in the Old Town

Business owners are worried at the lack of footfall in High Street in the Old Town

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Business owners in Hemel’s old town High Street have described it as a ‘ghost town’ – and appealed for help from Dacorum Borough Council.

Retailers have told the Gazette that the street has never fully recovered after delayed roadworks to ‘improve’ the street in 2013 and 2014 destroyed footfall.

Barry Garvin is closing his music shop Fretz at the end of June

Barry Garvin is closing his music shop Fretz at the end of June

Three businesses will have closed in the street within four months this calendar year by the end of June – and owners have called on the council to promote the old town more to its residents, and improve parking that is confusing shoppers.

Barry Garvin is closing his music shop Fretz at the end of June. He said: “A really nice High Street has been slowly and cycnically killed off.”

A quick walk down the High Street in Old Town reveals five empty shops – with two putting up notices that they are closing imminently.

This is the sad reality for many business owners in Old Town – the footfall is simply not there for them any more.

Kevin Rolph owns Old Town Angling, having used to be a customer decades ago.

He told the Gazette: “In the 21 years up until they did the road, my business had doubled in size.

“Since then it’s been downhill. We will still be here, but the council need to answer some serious questions.”

One of the shops set to close soon is Fretz Music Store, which has been run by Barry Garvin since 2008.

He said: “Making it one-way has taken away a lot of passing trade from us. A lot of people now go a different way. It’s just got to the stage where it’s not viable any more.

“Footfall has gone down by 40 per cent, and when people do come up here they can’t find anywhere to park because they don’t know where and when you can park.”

Michelle Smith, who runs Off The Wall Antiques, said: “The council need to promote it more, it’s like a ghost town.

“And there are big problems with the parking which means people are less likely to come here.”

Mark Gaynor, corporate director for regeneration at the council, said: “We do all we can to encourage events to happen, promote the area and support living, working and enjoying the Old Town.”

The council did not however respond to the Gazette’s enquiry as to whether it would meet with business owners to discuss the parking issues.