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Call to revive 'dying village' as tourist trap

A CHESHIRE village could reinvent itself as a tourist destination after almost a third of its shops announced plans to close.

A CHESHIRE village could reinvent itself as a tourist destination after almost a third of its shops announced plans to close.

Four businesses in Helsby are shutting and at least one more is rumoured to be leaving.

Business leaders say the mass exodus from the village's small row of shops is largely explained by a drastic drop in trade.

They say that the village is losing out to the nearby bigger commercial centres such as Frodsham, Ellesmere Port and Chester.

Parish councillor David Harwood fears Helsby could become a "dying village" and says tourism is the only future for the village.

He explained: "We have Helsby Hill, which is a huge asset, and the footpaths leading to the Sandstone Trail. Helsby is a very picturesque village and by attracting tourists we can boost the local economy.

"Visitors can stay in the local pubs which run bed and breakfast. At the moment, it is the only way I can see a future for the village." His own business, the District Garage, which has operated in Helsby since the 1940s, has recently closed.

Other shops set to leave the village include Lawless bakery, Mulberry Florists and animal fodder retailer Griffiths Brothers.

He said: "I was sad to go but my reasons for leaving were very much to do with the motor trade, not specifically trade in Helsby.

"But sadly a lack of trade is causing big problems. To have so many shops upping and leaving at once is devastating for the village. But there just isn't the trade to sustain them.

"There is a real feeling that Helsby is a dying village. There are rumours flying around about which business will be next."

Coun Harwood said trade in the village has been in decline since the last banks and building societies left in the mid-1990s.

"When you lose banks, you lose a lot of custom. The nearest banks are in Frodshamand Ellesmere Port, so if people are going to travel there for their money they are going to spend it there as well," he said.

"We have got to do something to stop the decline before it is too late. Helsby is a village of 5,000 people, we need to encourage them to come here to shop and support their local traders.

"We at the parish council are going to discuss ways of getting the village back on its feet, and I am going to press the borough council for their help."

He added: "The last thing we want is a ghost town full of empty shopping units. Helsby would become nothing more than a commuter belt."

Coun Harwood has already spoken to Vale Royal council chief executive Anne Bingham-Holmes about his idea that Helsby could become a tourist destination.

Last night a spokesman for Vale Royal Borough Council said: "We have been made aware of the concerns of Helsby Parish Council and some local businesses.

"We will look at tourism and economic issues in Helsby as part of a borough-wide strategy."


David Holmes
Chief News Reporter
David Norbury
Mike Fuller
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