TRADERS in Frodsham have accused Vale Royal planners of ‘slowly killing’ the historic market town by allowing too many non-retail businesses.
Planners say the number of estate agents, banks and offices in Frodsham has increased by 5% since 2001, but retail space has not decreased.
But retailers are dismayed to hear that two, possibly three, estate agents are to open alongside the five already operating in Frodsham.
Minchin Fellows and Macmillans estate agents have approval to change units in Church Street and Main Street from retail use to estate agents office use.
The council is also considering an application by Platinum estate agents to open on Main Street.
Millmark Foods owner John Bunting says the council’s decision is ‘another nail in the coffin.’
Mr Bunting, who has run the Main Street healthfood shop, for nine years, said: ‘From talking to other local retailers, it seems there’s been about a 10% drop in the amount of useful footfall in Frodsham over the last 18 months.
‘I’ve even had customers telling me they’re concerned about the way things are going. They say to me: ‘What is Frodsham coming to? Where are we going to be able to shop?’’
Rob Crowther, whose family opened the Devonshire Bakery in 1973, said: ‘It’s important to have a good range of retail businesses otherwise Frodsham as a shopping centre just won’t work, and if planners are not bothered about it, who can control what should or should not come into the town?’
Estate agent Yvonne Allsop, who has operated in Frodsham’s Main Street for more than 20 years, welcomed the ‘healthy competition’ but said there is not enough business to warrant eight estate agents.
She added: ‘When I moved into Frodsham I took over a former building society which already had office use, so did not alter the status quo. Now estate agents, letting agents, banks, financial advisors and accountants practically outnumber the shops.
‘We must look after our community. If shops disappear the choice goes and people will stop moving into the area, the consequence of which will be lower rentals and lower house prices through lack of buyers.’
Chester-based estate agents Minchin Fellows believe their new office could attract more visitors to the town.
Partner Phil Minchin said: ‘It’s taken three years for us to get planning permission to open in Frodsham because, in fairness to the planners, they put up a good fight because they wanted to retain the retail premises.
‘But this particular shop in Church Street had been vacant for 12 months and marketed for retail but no one was interested. That’s the only reason we finally managed to get a foot in the door.
‘In situations like this, I think landlords who want to keep their rents up are more at fault than planners.’
Duncan Macmillan, managing director of Macmillan Estate Agents, said: ‘The new office complies with the planning policy for Frodsham in terms of its business use, and it will further enhance the vitality of that section of the town centre.
Nobody at Platinum estate agents was available for comment.