Retailers in Eastbourne have voted to work together as Your Eastbourne BID to raise £1.5 million over 5 years to regenerate the town’s main shopping centre.
Through a levy on their business rates they hope to make sure that shoppers still want to come to Eastbourne; especially after
Debenhams closed its store this week after having been in the town for nearly half a century.
With the worst Christmas trading figures since 1995 released this month it’s clear that High Street shopping is suffering. The Eastbourne Debenhams store will be one of the 22 stores nationwide that will have to close after a failed take-over bid by Sports Direct.
To try and reverse this trend, £85 million was recently invested into Eastbourne’s main shopping centre. Plans are also underway to create Eastbourne’s first public square to attract more shoppers to the town centre
Stephen Holt - Chief Executive of Your Eastbourne BID said: "...the closure of Debenhams is a bit of a blow for Eastbourne. But ultimately, I don't think that people come to shop in a town centre now for one thing. They come for a multitude of reasons and services."
Explaining how the BID plans to raise this fund he said that: "Businesses across a defined area contribute towards a fund that is collected and that money is then re-invested into that town centre to provide things like improved evening lighting, Christmas lights, street security, events [and] also providing an outreach unit for people who are homeless...to provide a place for people to go outside of the town centre where they can be sign posted to key services."
The BID supported an event over the Christmas period in the Little Chelsea district of Eastbourne which appeared to be well attended.
The BID will be directly raising £1.5 million over 5 years from Eastbourne businesses. This money will allow more grant funding to be applied for which will increase the amount of money available to spend on town centre projects.
Eastbourne Council Leader Lib Dem Councillor David Tutt said that he does not think that another large department store would use the site and that he would expect to see the Debenhams store used as a multi-use site with homes, shops and offices all being made available.
But many shops remain empty across Eastbourne and it is not known what will happen to the large Debenhams site when it closes for the last time.