Concerns have been raised by traders and shoppers over the diminishing number of businesses operating from Melton’s Bell Centre shopping mall.
Voodoo Consoles is the latest company to exit the Nottingham Street venue, leaving five of the larger units empty.
There are now just two traders on one side of the horseshoe-shaped centre with high rents being blamed, as well as some shoppers being put off by a plethora of tickets being handed out to drivers at a recently-privatised car park to the rear.
Juice E-Vaporium, which sells vaping products, is one of the remaining traders on one side of the mall.
Manager Marcus Gray told the Melton Times: “It’s a shame the way it’s gone because when we first moved in four years ago we had The Chocolate Shop, Voodoo Consoles and a few other shops close by and it brought people in.
“The high rents is a problem for some businesses and we also have to pay a service charge.
“The other slightly disappointing thing was the car park being privatised and a few people being given parking tickets which hasn’t been great for the centre.”
Jibran Ali, proprietor at Melton Mobile, which sells phone accessories, said he was pleased with the footfall in the centre, with his unit being located on the more populated side of the mall.
He commented: “I’ve been here since 2016 and business has been good for me.
“It would be nice to get the empty units filled.
“The rent is too high for some and we could do with bringing in a Post Office to get more people here and make it more attractive to traders to come.”
We have been unable to make contact with Voodoo Consoles but a notice in the window of their vacant unit, which the business left on December 31 to move online, states: “Thank you for supporting us over the last 14 years. We hope you can support us online in our new venture.”
Shoppers passing through the Bell Centre today (Wednesday) said it looked tired and in need of more diverse traders to entice customers in.
Brian Hall, who can remember when the centre was the Corn Exchange and used for entertainment events half-a-century ago, said: “I think it’s disgusting, all these empty shops in here.
“They need to lower the rent I reckon because round the corner there must be four or five empty units and that can’t be good for business.
“It could do with a few different shops - I’ve always done my shopping in Grantham because they’ve got more choice there.”
Mavis Armstrong, of Asfordby, had been to one of the units occupied by Savers, the chemists, and she is not impressed with how the Bell Centre looks now.
“You walk round it and it’s half empty now,” she said.
“It doesn’t make you want to shop here.
“A lot of people I know only come in here when its raining.”
Some traders are happy with business in the centre, such as nail bar JN Nails, who have been there three years.
Habib Sharifi, one of the owners, said: “We are really happy here because we front on to Nottingham Street and we have a hairdressers opposite which brings people into the centre and a cafe next door as well.
“It would be good to get all the units filled but we are doing well here.”
Melton Council said it wanted to ensure the town centre continued to be economically viable and was aware of empty units in the Bell Centre.
Councillor Leigh Higgins, deputy leader and portfolio holder for growth and prosperity said:” Melton Borough Council has an ongoing commitment to supporting and developing our town centres which are outlined in the developing Corporate Strategy for 2020 onwards and commits the council to delivery of key investment in Melton.
“We have been in talks with the landlord and managing agents of the Bell Centre about the premises and whereas as a council we have no control over the business rents charged by private landlords we do work with local businesses to help them develop and offer support and advice in order for them to become sustainable and thriving features on our high streets.
“We are committed to making Melton an attractive place to live, work and visit and have been successful in securing hundreds of thousands of pounds for the development of a Food Enterprise Centre, Manufacturing Zones, a new health and wellbeing leisure hub as well as investing in Melton in Bloom to help secure a Gold award for the town in 2020.”
Councillor Higgins added: “Beyond this we have been working with Leicestershire County Council to secure over £65million for the development of the distributor road and associated transport strategy which is expected to unlock significant development and investment into the borough.
“This will lead to additional footfall to our town centre which will enable businesses to thrive and be successful on our high streets.
“I would encourage any businesses that are looking for advice to get in touch and see how we can help them.”