Shop closures dubbed nails in the coffin of Bognor town centre

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FEARS for Bognor Regis town centre have been voiced as another well-known retailer abandons the town.

The confectionery retailer Thorntons was yesterday preparing to shut its shop in the precinct. Its final day of trading is unknown.

But the departure will make it the third national chain to leave the town’s prime retailing areas of London Road and the High Street in the past three months.

Julian Graves shut last weekend and the Body Shop closed some three months ago.

Aldwick resident Nina Levelle, 73, visits the town centre twice a week to do her shopping.

She said: “The closure of Julian Graves and imminent closure of the Thorntons shop really are two more nails in the coffin for Bognor Regis town centre,

“There doesn’t seem to be anything to attract the tourists or even the residents to shop in the town. It is sad to say but the town’s main shopping area is looking very barren.”

Holiday-maker Tina Rouse, 51, is staying for a week in Butlin’s. The mother-of-three said: “I used to come here in my younger years with my parents and it is, I think, fair to say the town has transformed in that time and not necessarily for the better.

“In many ways Bognor is what you expect of a seaside town. It has a beach, pier and amusements, but it does lack decent shops.

“I was surprised when I saw the sign outside Thorntons saying they were closing. National chains encourage people to come to a town and spend money and that is what Bognor needs.”

The town’s business leader, 
Nick Stuart-Nicolson, the chairman and president of the town’s chamber of commerce, has voiced his concerns about the problems all towns are facing.

One possible solution would be to freeze business rates.

“The simple answer to retaining the much-valued retailers we already have and attracting and encouraging other prospective traders to take over empty shops is to have a major and quite radical change to business rate,” he told its executive committee.

“That is either to reduce the business levy or at least to freeze the business rate at an acceptable level.” But he said he believed Bognor town centre was still better off than many others.