Urgent action needed to save Chard town centre, former chamber boss warns (From Chard & Ilminster News)
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Urgent action needed to save Chard town centre, former chamber boss warns
A WINDOW of opportunity to save Chard town centre is quickly diminishing, according to the former chair of the town’s chamber of commerce.
Graham Barnes, 57, of Chard, said he warned that independent shops would start to close in five years if the town could not offer something unique to shoppers.
The News revealed last week that the Wool ‘n’ Craft shop in Pig Lane and Shoe Time and Chard Surplus in Holyrood Street would close in coming weeks.
Mr Barnes said: “I was on the initial stages of the town team, but nobody has any ideas or gumption to move this town forward, so I felt disillusioned by the end of it.
“The internet has made it more challenging to survive in the town, but you have to give people the reason to come here in the first place.
“If nothing changes other shops will go down the same route and then the window of opportunity to recover diminishes.
“It isn’t easy for town centres, but you have to come up with a formulation of ideas, otherwise the battle’s lost and the writing’s on the wall.”
Mr Barnes said an influx of charity shops, multi-nationals and financial buildings would not give people a reason to shop in Chard.
Chard Town Team was set up three years ago to help regenerate the town, and chairman Garry Shortland said they are trying to boost Chard, organising the Christmas lights switchon last year, Easter promotions and installing trees in the centre of the town.
He said: “There’s stuff being done, but you can’t just wave a magic wand.
“We saw it coming and we’re doing all we can, but we need traders to work towards stemming it a little bit and to come up with a strategy to save Chard.
“The regeneration of Chard is coming along in the next couple of years, but the new life is in the lower part of the town and it’s the upper part of the town where the shops seem to be closing.”
Chard Town Team’s AGMis on Wednesday, March 26, at 6pm at the Guildhall and all the town’s traders are invited to attend.
Mr Shortland said: “To save Chard it has to come from the ground and we need people to put their ideas forward for what they think will work.”
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