Southport needs “action and not words” to succeed amid “significant challenges” and store closures, according to the town’s BID (Business Improvement District).
More than 100 businesses, investors, property agents and stakeholders are said to have attended a meeting to focus on the positives of the Sefton destination and its potential streams of investment.
Following the event, which included Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram among a host of speakers, Southport BID chair Rob Uffendell says: “It’s clear that Southport, our town, is experiencing the same sort of issues that are facing many other towns and cities across the country. So, we’re not alone in having to face up to some really significant challenges.
“Our speakers consistently highlighted the big advantages that help set us apart from our competitors. Our reputation as a significant coastal destination is increasing year on year (as demonstrated by the annual rise in visitor numbers). We have some unique assets in our town.
“We’ve already seen a lot of investment in our town. And we have dedicated partners from both the private and public sector who are determined to get things done.
“There is evidence from around the UK that those areas with BIDs in place are more successful in attracting external funding because it demonstrates a strong partnership between the private and public sectors and a willingness to work together.”
Sarah Kemp, executive director of Sefton Council; Caroline Baker from Cushman & Wakefield; Dr Steve Millington from The BID Foundation and Robert Agsteribbe from Bliss Investments also spoke during the forum, which followed announcements that high street chains were to close their stores in the town.
Southport’s HMV branch was one of the North West stores to close after the retailer was bought out of administration by Canada’s Sunrise Records & Entertainment Limited last week.
Rent-to-own retailer BrightHouse then confirmed its branch on Eastbank Street in the town centre will be shutting on 23 March, as the chain announced 30 UK closures following pre-tax losses.
Calls for more flexibility in setting parking tariffs, improving east to west transport links, and doing more to increase town centre residential living were made by delegates during the meeting to help boost the town centre.
Uffendell adds: “Southport was described as a speciality town with plenty of opportunities for development.
“Attracting investment is hard work as was made clear by our speakers. All of them were clear on one thing: there are huge opportunities for this town but to get it right we need to demonstrate confidence and pride in what we have.
“That said, many of the solutions raised at the event have been talked about for years. If we’re going to take this town forward and make things happen, it’s time for action and not words.”