A Government minister actively involved in the national push to reinvigorate the high street and town centre heard of successes and struggles of local business when he visited Ilkley this week.
Brandon Lewis MP joined Ilkley and Keighley MP Kris Hopkins on a walk along shopping street The Grove on Tuesday morning, meeting some of the town’s independent retailers.
Mr Hopkins invited the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Communities and Local Government to visit Ilkley and Haworth – both big visitor attractions within his constituency – to find out how the high street in faring in the current economic conditions.
And he revealed a Government report due out shortly could persuade local authorities to make parking easier for shoppers – possibly relaxing parking regulations.
Mr Lewis was on his first visit to Ilkley, and was impressed by the town’s appearance, its welcoming shopkeepers and variety of retail outlets.
He said: “What we have in Ilkley in a really good mix of different stores, and independent traders, we haven’t got three supermarkets or three large chemists, theres a lot fo variety.
“There’s a really nice atmosphere, the hospitality is there, and it’s very welcoming, the customer service is there.”
He and Mr Hopkins visited interiors shop Tiplings, run by Kim Jackson and her husband for more than three years.
She explained how using a vintage cash till and putting on nostalgic music all helped provide atmosphere to attract customers.
Mrs Jackson, who praised the Council for its upkeep on The Grove, said: “We put our merchandise outside like in the old days and regularly change the window displays.”
The Minister also visited The Grove Bookshop, where he heard how traditional bookshops are holding their own against competition from online retailers and the trend for electronic books.
Manager, Carol Peel, said: “We can often gets books quicker than you could from Amazon, we have a really good wholesaler, and we can often get a book overnight.”
Mr Lewis heard of more trading success when he visited jeweller Jeremy Bloomfield, and the owner of hardware store RW Morten, Stephen Senior.
But he was also told of Ilkley’s perenniel difficulties with parking.
Mr Bloomfield said: “The big issue in the town is car parking. There’s not enough of it in the town and on Saturdays, people are driving round and round. It needs a solution reallty, but there’s just not the space.”
Mr Lewis the results of a Government consultation are due in the next few weeks, looking at how the Government can alleviate parking problems.