Concern as city centre remains 'ghost town and a wilderness' - despite £25m regeneration

By Hull Daily Mail | Posted: 2 Jan 2018

City councillors say some parts of the city centre are still like a "ghost town" at night despite a huge investment in the area.

The council spent £25m re-paving streets and public squares ahead of the 2017 City of Culture celebrations as well as upgrading the Ferens Art Gallery and the New Theatre.

It also met half the £1.5m cost of breathing new life into a number of derelict warehouses in Humber Street.

In addition, the authority is spending another £36m on the Hull Venue complex and has also set aside £10m to buy and demolish empty properties to make way for the new Albion Square development.

The main entrance to the former Bhs store

But some councillors say the feelgood factor of regenerated areas such as the Fruit Market is not being felt elsewhere.

Speaking at a scrutiny meeting, Councillor John Abbott said: "At 5pm outside the Guildhall the only sound you can here is the tumbleweed.

"On an early evening people are still getting out of the city centre as fast as they can."

Councillor Claire Thomas said: "The success of the Fruit Market has been amazing and seeing new businesses locate there is great.

"However, walking through the city centre and Queen Victoria Square to get there after the shops have closed is like being in a ghost town.

"It does feel a bit of a wilderness between the train station and the Old Town and the Fruit Market.

"It needs to be more connected with more to link the areas together."

Cllr Thomas also questioned why Hull had not re-applied for Purple Flag status after the city centre previously been accredited under the national community safety scheme.

"We should be saying loud and proud that we are friendly, forward-thinking, safe place to visit. Having something like Purple Flag status saying we are safe is very important."

Hull city centre was first awarded Purple Flag status in 2012 and it was renewed in 2015.

Flashback to 2013 with Lord Mayor Danny Brown, Hull BID city centre manager Kathryn Shillito and Luc Perquin, general manager of the Mercure Royal Hotel, promoting Hull's Purple Flag accreditation

Councillors heard the decision not to apply for a further renewal had been made by the board of the Hull Business Improvement Distrcit.

Scrutiny chairman Councillor Haraldo Herrera-Richmond said: "Thanks to the City of Culture, the whole perception of Hull has improved.

"I think people are staying longer in the city centre if there is an event on but there is a distinct lack of offer in some places, especially in the New Town area."

Hull city centre from the air

Garry Taylor, head of major projects at the council, said attracting new independent bar and restaurant operators to the area between the Guildhall and Paragon Station was difficult because much of the available retail space there was expensive and, in many cases, unsuitable for easy conversion.

Scrutiny councillors will decide next week whether set up a specific review panel looking at steps the council could take to boost the city centre's evening economy.

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