Fears for Glasgow's Byres Road as shops close

TRADERS fear the death knell has been sounded for the high street as an increasing number of businesses shut up shop.

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Fears for the future of West End independent outlets
Fears for the future of West End independent outlets

In the last month, four shops closed their doors in Byres Road in Glasgow's West End.

Furniture shop The Wooden Heart, football clothing retailer Boca 10 and Otto Bar and Grill, which are in the same row, are no longer trading.

The outlets, next to the Western Infirmary, join other casualties on the West End's main shopping street, including Clinton Cards and Vintage, which both closed last year.

Ice-cream cafe 3 Steps to Heaven, which is in another location in the road, closed its doors before Christmas.

A sign on the door says the cafe has closed for refurbishment, however, there is no indication when it will reopen.

Bar and restaurant The Blind Pig shut around three months ago but has been taken over by Bar Soba.

At a nearby charity shop a worker, who did not want to be named, said: "There seems to be a lot of places closing just now.

"They just can't manage to survive here."

Community leaders and residents fear it could be the death of the street - and are calling for action to help traders.

The Byres Road Traders' Association is in the process of being set up in a bid to engage independent and chain firms.

In total there are around 270 businesses in Byres Road and its lanes, ranging from Waitrose, Boots and Papyrus at the top end to Two Figs and George Mews Cheese at the other end.

Michael Dale, director of the West End Festival, said: "We started to talk about setting up a traders' group last year and we've had meetings.

"It is a very slow decline but Byres Road is gradually dying.

"There is a clear difference between the top half of the road and the bottom half."

Mr Dale put the street's failing down to a number of issues, including lack of parking spaces, rents and business rates.

He said: "The rents are high, the business rates are ludicrously high.

"The parking is shocking and the state of the pavements are a problem. The signage is also appalling.

"Glasgow cannot rest on its laurels. We are not a fantastic city, we have litter strewn on streets but we are lovely people and we need to save the city.

"We need help to reinvent Byres Road."

Sandra White, MSP for Glasgow Kelvin, agreed.

She said: "It is a real concern of mine. The other end of Byres Road, near Dumbarton Road has been decimated.

"There are so many empty shops. Now it is creeping up and gradually affecting the rest of the street.

"The top end, near Oran Mor, seems to be thriving so there's a real difference.

"Byres Road is the jewel in the West End's crown so we need to get more people visiting shops and plans in place to regenerate it."

Residents have called for action to save the road.

Daisy Richardson, 37, an artist from North Kelvinside, said: "I have noticed that the Dumbarton Road end of Byres Road seems to be doing much worse than the other end. Byres Road does always seem quite busy, though.

"It's a sign of the recession that businesses are closing but something needs to be done to get more people walking to this end."

Natalie Wardrope, 21, a textiles student who lives in Finnieston, said: "I think there is quite a lot of independent shops struggling now.

"The shops at this end of Byres Road definitely need a bit more help than the others."

John Mackie, 87, from Kelvindale, said: "The west end used to be far more bustling and busy than it is now. It's terrible the way it's gone, it's all over for them.

"It's maybe not the right shops - we may need different kind of shops here."

Imogen Stirling, 20, from Hyndland, suggested that the bottom end of Byres Road needed a big name to help pull more customers down this way.

She said: "I don't come this way that often so maybe if a supermarket such as Tesco opened here it would get more people down to this end."

The council is launching a Place-making Action Plan to make public realm improvements around the area.

Liz Cameron, executive member for jobs and the economy at Glasgow City Council, said: "To ensure that Byres Road remains such a popular destination, and one that makes a vital contribution to the city's day and night time economies, it is important to identify proposals that can maintain what makes this such a special place and make improvements where necessary.

"This is what the council and our partners are working on right now, and we can look forward to some exciting developments for Byres Road in the near future."

A council spokesman said that there traditionally has been a "fairly high turnover" of businesses at the bottom of Byres Road.

However, he added: "In these tough economic conditions, we recognise that planning is needed to ensure Byres Road maintains its position".

rachel.loxton@ heraldandtimes.co.uk

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