ANOTHER business is closing its doors in Ellesmere Port.
The Pioneer can confirm that after nearly 20 years of trading, KFC on Whitby Road will be the latest company to move out of the town when it shuts on January 31, trailing in the wake of McDonald's, TJ Hughes and Woolworths.
As another national retailer pulls out of the town centre, Cheshire Oaks continues to thrive and attract popular brands, having experienced its busiest Christmas period in five years.
Ellesmere Port town centre has been one of the areas most affected by the collapse of a number of national household names, with numerous shops and restaurants that once stood in the heart of the town, currently sitting empty.
Cllr Justin Madders admitted that Ellesmere Port has seen a big change in shopping habits and plans to raise the subject at a meeting of Cheshire West and Chester Council this Friday.
“I’ve asked for this to be put on the agenda in light of the McDonald’s closure last month,” he said.
“We need to think radically about what the future of Whitby High Street is.
“It’s not the worst high street out there – there are things we’re trying to do like the art gallery scheme and shop front improvements, but these are only going to be sticking plasters.”
He added: “Right now Ellesmere Port doesn’t lend itself to people passing through; it’s still pretty busy but that stretch of road is certainly suffering.
“Hopefully after Friday’s meeting we’ll see that a long-term strategy needs to be created for that part of town but we’ll need to talk to people about what is going to be feasible and deliverable.”
A spokesperson for the franchise operating KFC in Cheshire confirmed the closure, saying: “We're always evaluating the location of our restaurants to ensure they are in the best possible areas to meet consumer demand, and have taken the decision to close our Ellesmere Port restaurant on January 31.
“We’re doing everything we can to offer employees jobs at our other restaurants in the area and hope our fans will visit the nearby store at Cheshire Oaks Retail Park.”
Laura Johnson, spokesperson for Cheshire West and Chester Council, said: “Town centres across the country have seen a decline in visitors over the past few years, and, as a result, businesses closing down and leaving properties empty.
“Yet Ellesmere Port’s figures show that the town has in fact bucked the trend in many areas, with a current vacancy rate of 16.2% (April 2012) – against a North West backdrop of 17.1%.
“The vacancy rate for traditional high street of Whitby Road also remains at 21.4%, which is average for a shopping street of this type.”
“We understand that Port Arcades reported positive increased footfall figures over the Christmas period and works are currently taking place to extend one of the larger retail units at Westminster Retail Park – showing a confidence in the town’s retail trade.
“We’ve welcomed many new businesses to Ellesmere Port over the past year, Jaguar Land Rover, Regatta, Williams Sinclair, the largest flagship Marks & Spencer store outside London, Travelodge and Debenhams to name just a few.
“West Cheshire College and the Academy are bringing thousands of new people through the town centre and the empty property scheme underway on Whitby Road is welcoming new and innovative businesses including a new art gallery to the high street.
“Our manufacturing ‘Fab Lab’ is due to open later this year and we have a strong town centre advisory panel made up of town centre traders and residents who are helping to guide us in improvements that can be made to the area.”