COMMUNITY leaders in Trowbridge are calling on businesses to come together to thrash out a solution to fill the empty shops in the town centre.

Mayor Deborah Halik, MP Andrew Murrison, local shopkeeper Edward Kirk and Trowbridge Town Council met last month to discuss how to entice businesses to a town centre that is littered with vacant shops.

Plans are now in motion for these parties to contact the owners of the vacant premises and try and get local businesses to use the Trowbridge Chamber of Commerce website and communicate what shops they and the Trowbridge public need.

“We want to get everyone involved, the more ideas the better. This is a big problem for the town and we want to come together to find a solution,” she said.

“Some people want a Primark, others want more independent traders or restaurants, but if we can get a variety of views on this, that will help our cause. Trowbridge is not in a dire state and it is certainly not beyond saving.”

Cllr Halik has also organised a charity business networking lunch at Trowbridge Civic Centre on January 27 to talk about the issue.

“It is unacceptable that the county town’s centre has fallen into this state. For many, it is not a nice place for people to visit and businesses are adversely affected by this,” said Dr Murrison.

“We are discussing options and I will write to the owners of the vacant premises to try and find a solution to this problem. “Unfortunately, to reduce business rates requires government action but steps can be made to improve things.”

Last year, the Harper Dennis Hobbs’ Vitality Index ranked Trowbridge at 789th out of 1,000 shopping areas across Britain, the fifth worst in the South West, over the mix of quality and budget stores it had, thus giving an insight into the town’s problem.

“Unfortunately, whether we like it or not, the main growth areas in retail for Trowbridge and other towns are bookmakers, charity shops, vaping shops, nail salons and coffee shops,” said Cllr Kirk.

“Trowbridge needs to serve the community. We are not a big tourism hotspot so we need to be realistic and come up with a good strategy.”

Chairman of Trowbridge Chamber of Commerce, Tracey Parker, said: “I welcome this conversation between businesses. We need a good mix of big and small shops, indepedent retailers and some younger faces too. We have 80 businesses signed up to the Trowbridge Chamber and that is a big help.”

The event runs from midday-4pm and to book a ticket call 01225 765072.