At the Town & Community meeting last week, Town Manager, Helen Barnett reported Henley’s current empty unit rate as 3.1% against a national average of 11%. This figure excludes shops that have been let but are being refurbished, such as Starbucks which reopens on Saturday (23 June) after a flood.
In Duke Street, former Barbara Easton shop is under offer, the old Blue Cross charity shop will be opening as an art gallery. Maison Blanc on the corner of Duke and Hart Street has been let to Harris & Hoole cafe chain and work has finally started on the refurbishment. In Market Place the former Sno and Sun is under offer and the recently closed Da Luca Italian restaurant has been let to another restaurant operator. Boatique in Friday Street will be re-opening as a co-operative in July.
Work on the Market Place Mews development is on hold due to planning pre-conditions set by South Oxfordshire District Council. The developers anticipate to return to the site after Regatta.
Many residents have aired their views on Facebook on the state of the town and comparing as always to Marlow which is seen to be thriving.
Henley Mayor, Councillor Glen Lambert responded by saying, “Marlow has half a dozen empty units in prominent positions also but it seems that both Marlow and Henley are doing far better than the national average. Probably because both are relatively affluent towns.
The fact of the matter is that UK economic growth has slowed significantly in the last couple of years and we are riding uncomfortably close to recession which reduces consumer confidence. Together with other factors such as high rents, high rates and the ever growing rise in Internet shopping, it is no surprise that high streets are struggling.
Major retailers House of Fraser and Poundworld have both announced nationwide closures in the last few days, Loch Fyne was also a national closure, as was East, Toys R Us & Maplin. It should be clear to everyone that this problem extends far beyond Henley Town Council.
As I have said many times, it would help Henley if people would stop talking the town down all the time. Henley is doing FAR better than other towns in the current economic climate. Perspective please.”