A SURVEY says Ellesmere Port’s retail sector remains ‘vulnerable’ despite the success of Cheshire Oaks.

The Cheshire Retail Study was commissioned by Cheshire West and Chester and Cheshire East councils to inform development plans for centres such as Ellesmere Port, Chester, Crewe and Frodsham.

According to the report, Ellesmere Port has a high number of vacant premises.

The summary says the town has experienced a strong, stable and growing food sector since 2000 but with a limited non-food retail sector.

The report states: “Vacancies are considered high when compared to the national average. The town centre remains vulnerable and will require investment and intervention of its performance is to be improved.

“While existing development commitments should address this gap, the proposed floor space is all at Cheshire Oaks.”

It adds: “Major facilities at Cheshire Oaks also includes Sainsbury’s foodstore, David Lloyd health and fitness club, VUE cinema, Destiny and Elite nightclub and Tenpin Bowling. Cheshire Oaks contains 84,590sq m of retail floor space, which is larger than Crewe town centre.

“Neston has variable economic indicators. While the centre benefits from strong and stable convenience goods representation, the centre has limited comparison goods representation.”

A summary says Chester city centre remains a strong shopping and leisure destination but warns of ‘mixed indicators of vitality and viability’.

Despite strong demand for space by retailers and leisure operators, rental levels have declined.

The report says: “The city centre although still a strong regional centre requires investment and intervention in the medium to long term to reinforce its competitiveness in the region.”

It argues Chester has so far been resilient to the economic downturn and competition from improved regional centres such as Liverpool and Manchester as well as Warrington and Cheshire Oaks.

And the report says there is a major opportunity to improve the retail offer through the proposed Northgate Development but points out the scheme is currently stalled.

It adds: “If Chester city centre is to sustain and enhance its role in the medium to long term then it is important that it adapts and improves its retail offer over time and responds to available markets or risks future investment and economic prosperity.”

Frodsham shows signs of ‘strong vitality and viability’. Outlets will meet demand for food spending up to 2026 and most of the excess demand for non-food goods will be absorbed by the extension at the Helsby Tesco store.