Mansfield's MP is calling for Mansfield District Council to set a clear vision for Mansfield's town centre and buy unused properties.
During a debate at the House of Commons on Wednesday, June 6, Ben Bradley, MP, said the council should look into buying unused properties to help fill the town.
He said: “If the council was able to purchase buildings and change their use, it would regenerate the edges of the town and help to fill units in the town centre.
“It would also bring properties that are often going to rack and ruin back into use, making the whole place more attractive and vibrant, and making it more of a place where people might be likely to come to and spend time.
“More and more, town centres should be a destination that we want to visit, as well as places for shopping.”
“We cannot rely on retail to fill every space in the way we once could; we need the flexibility to change things.”
He also spoke about how free parking is driving shoppers to out-of-town shopping centres and how low property prices is putting people off selling.
This comes after his parking petition calling for two hours free parking in the town centre, which was signed by 2120 people, since it was started last month.
He said: “I am not sure that we are yet clear about what exactly its plan is. On delivering such a vision, I have some idea of what I want it to look like.
“One of the challenges we face is adapting the physical space of town centres to fit this new market.”
Mansfield Mayor Kate Allsop said: “As car parking brings in £1.6m in revenue for the council, making car parking free would have to be at the expense of other services. We feel that the current parking deals we offer, including 30 minutes for free and three hours for two tickets, provide a good compromise in maintaining that vital revenue while encouraging people to visit the town centre for both short visits and longer ones.
“It is also worth noting that many of the signatures on Mr Bradley’s free parking petition did not meet the council’s approved criteria because they were either from outside the district, or did not include an address. Some of the names also had no signature which discounts them. This means that there are now only 405 names on it which is below the 1,000 needed to qualify for a debate on the matter by the Full Council.
“On other points that our MP raised in the Commons, we do already have a Town Team which collaborates with active local organisations such as Mansfield BID, the police, and local businesses, all working together for the benefit of the town centre, where, incidentally, footfall has increased by 5.4% - flying in the face of the national trend of a 3.4% decrease. The Town Team is always open to new ideas and suggestions as to how it can be more effective.
“The council also supports initiatives that help local businesses to make the digital age work for them, by, for instance, offering grants of up to £5,000 to businesses to help them with things like e-commerce and websites. We also promote local training opportunities for businesses in how to meet the challenges of the so-called ‘fourth industrial revolution’
“In many ways our local MP and the council are on the same page when it comes to a strategic plan for Mansfield’s future which has been set out in our Town Centre Vision report due to be due to be presented to the council in September. This report will form part of the Local Plan which is due to be published next year and will define likely required development in the area until 2033.
“We also recognise that the high street is changing and to maintain the vibrancy of the town centre there needs to be less reliance on the retail of material goods by big high street names and more emphasis on supporting the needs of independent traders, who offer products and services that cannot be found or sold on the internet and also bring a uniqueness to Mansfield.
“The way the retail market changes may outpace elements of the Local Plan and council may have to adapt its strategy - in line with any shifting national guidance on planning matters - to reflect any changing circumstances.
“We do already have the power to compulsory purchase buildings and, of course, would be interested in any changes in legislation that give councils more options to deal with empty buildings. Already the council is following national guidelines on retail planning by, for instance, not supporting out-of-town retail developments which could instead be located in the town centre.”