2:00pm Thursday 8th November 2012
Kendal must not become a ghost town In 1997 Kendal was voted top of the list of the most attractive towns in the United Kingdom, placing Stratford-Upon-Avon, Chester, York into second, third and fourth positions respectively.
Anyone visiting Kendal today, walking from the bottom of Kirkland through to the far end of Strickland-gate, could be forgiven for thinking they had come to the wrong town.
The number of dilapidated buildings, empty business and shop premises, pubs with For Sale/To Let signs on them have created the atmosphere of a town that has obviousy seen ‘better days’.
Every week, this newspaper is full of letters, not just from residents but also from visitors, accusing the council of blatant overcharging from every-thing to car parking to excessive business rates that small shopkeepers simply cannot afford to pay and find themselves having to shut up shop or go out of business.
Public lavatories, if you can find any, now have a 20p charge! It is little wonder so many visitors write to say they will never visit this area again.
Although I am Cumbrian born and bred, I spent a few of my early years growing up and living in a town called Plympton, very near to the city of Plymouth. A few years ago, visiting old friends, I was saddened to see the main high street known as The Ridgeway seemingly beginning to slide downwards in a similar position of present-day Kendal.
However, a few weeks ago I returned to Plympton and was amazed to see the town has become a thriving, successful, busy and prospering market town again.
I could not find an empty shop or business premise - every one appears to have a thriving livelihood. The place was thronged with people all doing their shopping. There was not even a charity shop on the high street, there is obviously no demand for one.
How has this come about? The local council did a U-turn. Noticing that things were descending into a downward spiral, they drastically cut business rates, demolished the old properties that were falling into dis-repair and turned the land into a giant car park.
You may find this hard to believe, but the parking is free. Not only are the lavatories free as well, but they have hot running water in them.
It would appear the local council has discovered that the income they receive from a full quota of business premises more than compensates the loss that they could possibly make from introducing excessive car parking charges that only succeed in forcing locals to go out of town and do their shopping in the big industrial estates.
South Lakeland District Council needs to wake up and re-think its policies, before they turn Kendal into a ghost town.
Michael Brooks, Kendal
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