Is this town going to be a ghost town?

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WITH four more shops set to be left empty in our town centre we ask the question what can be done to save our High Street?

Exactly two years ago, the Herald highlighted the concerns of several retailers after a string of closures, including Woolworths, left a total of 11 shops standing vacant with jobs lost.

And now 24 months on, the situation seems little different with the news that another five retailers have or are in the process of leaving the town.

Already the Scottish Hydro Electric store has announced it will be closing its doors for the last time at the end of the month and tomorrow (Saturday) will see the last day of trading at Abbey Music, a fixture in the town since 1980.

The Corner House Deli has now shut and this is also compounded by the fact that it is rumoured Semi Chem are to close one of their two High Street stores.

However, it was announced on Friday that Happit had been saved from administration.

A Town Centre Regeneration group has been formed and is headed by local businessman Harry Simpson.

The group has been talking to different companies to try and boost business as well as tidying and cleaning up the High Street.

But Mr Simpson believes it is three big factors - rent, rates and internet shopping that are contributing to the decline.

He told the Herald: “It is sad to see boarded up shop windows as I want to see shops open and the town centre vibrant and I believe rent has got a lot to do with it.

“Then there is internet shopping and rates which are also going against businesses.

“I might be old school in my thinking but I believe if we can keep ladies shopping in the town and buying locally wherever they can it will make a difference.”

Local MSP Graeme Dey has also expressed his concern about the High Street but says the SNP Government is doing all they can to help small businesses.

And he carries the same message as Mr Simpson, use the shops or lose them.

He explained: “I am always concerned to hear about vacant units appearing in our High Streets and this is something the SNP Government has been working hard to address with the reduction of rates for small businesses, and measures in John Swinney’s budget to try and encourage landlords not to leave shops lying empty for any length of time.

“Around 65 per cent of small businesses in Angus are benefiting from the small business rates relief scheme, higher than the national average, and I know how welcome that assistance is.

“But if we are to have thriving High Streets then we, the public, have to wherever possible support them.

“Because if we don’t use our local shops then clearly they will struggle to survive.”

Twitter: @JenniferNewton1