Top Town v Freeman Street: Why their rivalry risks Grimsby retail

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 5 Feb 2019

Regeneration efforts risk creating two rival town centres in Grimsby, a property expert has warned.

Lawrence Brown, from Scotts property, said efforts to revive Freeman Street should focus on fostering independent trade there and avoid direct competition with Top Town.

But as national chains struggle, and experts warn Top Town needs to rely on independents too, it paints a confused and potentially grave picture for Grimsby's retail scene.

Efforts to claw back falling footfall and combat growing online sales could create rivalry and spell yet more trouble for our shopping streets.

Victoria Street in Grimsby is battling against falling footfall (Image: Rick Byrne/GrimsbyLive)

As work to revamp Freeman Street kicks off, Mr Brown warned: "I think the opportunities on Freeman Street are varied.

"I think we have to be very careful in this area that we don't try and create two town centres to Grimsby.

"There is a town centre in the town centre, known locally as Top Town. We then have Freeman Street itself."

Read more: The alarming number of shops that have closed in Grimsby but rise of independents shows hope for high street

The warning comes just three days after alarming statistics showed 33 shops had closed in and around Victoria Street between 2013 and 2018.

Findings from the Office of National Statistics appeared to show how local, independent stores are increasingly taking over from traditional high street brands.

Lawrence Brown, managing partner at Scotts Property, in Grimsby (Image: GrimsbyLive)

But if independents are to be the lifeline for Top Town, and the key to Freeman's Street new identity, it raises doubts about the long-term sustainability of both centres.

Speaking about Freeman Street, to Burnsy on BBC Radio Humberside Mr Brown said it needs to be "slightly quirky, slightly different" as it seeks to "retask" itself following the demise of Grimsby Docks.

Read more: Cleethorpes' Premier Inn hits the investment market - for well over £35 a room!

He said: "As you walk up and down the street, you would have seen the shops of differing nationalities along here, offering goods that can't be bought elsewhere in the town.

"So maybe, just maybe that's where Freeman Street needs to be.

"It needs to be slightly quirky, slightly different and getting that customer base in rather than trying to compete with all the nationals who will inevitably go up to Freshney Place shopping centre."

In its heyday, Freeman Street back in 1972 (Image: A A Cook)

The Scotts boss said Grimsby's property market is "tough", but urged the public to wait patiently before regeneration efforts and rise of the renewable energy sector bear fruit.

He was speaking to Burnsy as part of a special live programme focused on key projects such as plans to revamp Freeman Street and Cleethorpes sea front.

"It's definitely not hot air," said Mr Brown. "But like everything, these things don't happen overnight.

"It takes years to bring forward regeneration. It takes years to see the benefits of all the growth.

"We aren't suddenly going to see the streets paved with gold overnight, it's just not going to happen."

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