Vacancy rate doubles, but Leighton’s shops are soon to be filled

The number of vacant shop premises in Leighton Buzzard town centre has doubled in the space of a year – but the chairman of LB First says this doesn’t tell the full story.

Statistics presented to June’s meeting of the town council’s partnership committee show that the town had a 6.9% vacancy rate, with 14 empty premises – compared to just 7 a year earlier.

Despite the increase, the rate remains below the figure for Central Beds as a whole which is dragged down by the 18.8% vacancy rate in Dunstable where there are50 empty units.

Genarro Borrelli, chairman of independent retailers’ group LB First, said: “We have a member who is a commercial property agent and a lot of shops are in the process of being taken on. There is a farm shop opening in Waterborne Walk and M&Co is looking likely to be coming to the old Poundstretcher store.

“The Wharf Grill premises is also opening again, and will be a food place still.”

He said although Central Beds Council had recently insisted the proposed South Side development would be market-led retail, he added that the council had also said it wasn’t necessarily a good time for encouraging new retail outlets to town centres.

Mr Borrelli added: “The new businesses coming in tells you there is plenty of activity and interest.”

Further encouraging news comes from a CBC report to the partnership committee that states: “The feedback from the commercial agents is there continues to be a shortage of freehold land or industrial units but they are receiving positive feedback about Leighton’s proximity to the new A5-M1 link, which should create further interest in the area as a result of the improved connectivity to the M1.

“The employment land on the East of Leighton site is generating interest both via the council and directly with the promoters.”

“A recent success for the council’s Business Investment Team is Maritme Transport, the UK’s largest independent transport business, recently moved into Spinney Park, creating potentially up to 100 new jobs for the area.”