CHANGING shopping habits have been eroding trade on our high streets for years.
And with what could be the deepest recession since the 1930s, times look particularly bleak for the traditional shopping centre.
While online shopping, out-of-town retail centres and the economic downturn have hurt trade in cities, the impact has been severe in smaller retail centres like Huddersfield.
The once thriving Pack Horse Centre and Queensgate Market are peppered with empty pitches. Meanwhile the major chain stores on New Street have been replaced by vacant units and bargain basement stores.
And few people – even those in power – know what to do.
All this week in the Examiner’s Town Centre in Crisis series, DAVE HIMELFIELD asks Huddersfield’s best business minds how we can bring our town centre back from the brink.
l If you want to join the debate email your thoughts to email@example.com or phone the newsdesk on 01484 437774.
OUR town centre needs to revive its past to build itself a future, says one of Huddersfield’s greatest entrepreneurs.
Ajaz Ahmed, whose former company Freeserve was once worth £9bn, believes the town needs to revitalise its historic areas and re-establish a community feel to its town centre.
The internet pioneer thinks landlords and Kirklees Council should cut their rents and rates to encourage new business to set up in town.
He said: “Landlords need to be more negotiable and Kirklees needs to be more flexible with business rates and encourage smaller businesses to open in the town centre.
“It’s better to have lower returns than empty shops and pound shops.
“There needs to be an incentive so entrepreneurs think it’s worth taking a chance.”
Mr Ahmed, who still lives in Birkby, says the town centre needs to capitalise on its historic assets.
He said: “I look at Huddersfield with pride.
“There are great buildings and architecture. We’re doing a lot better than Bradford, Halifax and Wakefield.
“The railway station is beautiful and very busy with hundreds of trains going to Leeds and Manchester each day. That tells you something.”
He adds: “Let’s go back to the old days and how it felt to be a community.