Liskeard community: 'Half our shops are NOT empty'
LISKEARD'S political and business communities have joined together to set the record straight and praise their "quirky" and "passionate" town after a TV programme falsely claimed half the shops were empty.
Traders rallied to defend Liskeard and the new businesses they say are flocking to the town after BBC Spotlight read out two e-mails claiming 50 per cent of shops were shut and the rest were either estate agents or charity shops.
Rik Jones, chair of Liskeard Chamber of Commerce, said in reality the town centre had just seven empty stores compared to 95 occupied shops – not including banks, surgeries and market traders, as well a range of large out-of-town stores such as Argos and Pets At Home and a busy industrial estate.
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Deputy mayor Lori Reid invited the news programme's presenters to visit Liskeard to see its vibrant centre and promote the true face of the town across the south west.
She wrote: "The national average of empty shops stands, I believe, at 15 per cent. Your item quoted 20 to 25 per cent shop closures in the south west. With roughly only eight per cent of empty shops, Liskeard is therefore bucking the trend both regionally and nationally."
She said four new retailers had recently opened in the high street and the town's hotel had been lovingly restored.
"We are also one of the very few market towns with a regular livestock market.
"And, incidentally, although we do have charity shops – as does every other town in the UK – there are none in our main shopping street."
She was backed by David Nias, business centre manager for Liskeard's Mole Valley Farmers, who said numerous organisations worked independently and jointly to ensure the town was vibrant.
Maureen Smith, co-founder of the traders' association, said the town was moving forward and two empty shops were being looked at.
"We're bucking the trend and are a lot better off than most," she commented.
"I'm 100 per cent passionate about Liskeard and so are a lot of other people. We're all working together with the chamber of commerce, the town council and the town forum. We all want the best for Liskeard.
"We've got really different independent shops. People have gone to Plymouth and said they've been round all the shops there, then come to Liskeard and they've found exactly what they wanted."
Mrs Smith said most of the shops were run by independent traders and were very unique, with visitors saying they liked the fact they could buy things in Liskeard they didn't see elsewhere.
"Business is really picking up, with more people coming into town mid-afternoon to take advantage of parking at 3pm and for their 40p they can park for the rest of the day," she added.
"It is free parking from 4pm.
"The traders' association is going from strength to strength. We have a new chairman, Mark Ansell from Liskeard News, and vice chairman Ian Stevenson, an independent driving instructor, and a good committee who are all passionate about Liskeard.
"Our town is now a thriving community with everyone working for the same goal."
Mrs Smith said a monthly Saturday market was planned and encouraged potential stall holders to e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
"We are working closely with the chamber of commerce, the town council and the town forum to boost Liskeard's tradition as a thriving market town," she added.