Early signs that Ormskirk town centre is back on the mend are beginning to show.
Last year the Advertiser investigated the decline of the high street showing pictures of the huge volume of empty shops at the heart of the town.
But now, following the announcement by central government that GDP levels are officially back to pre-2008 crisis levels, the high street is showing signs of recovery, but is not out of the woods yet.
The current vacancy rate of commercial premises in Ormskirk town centre is 5.7% (figures from May 28, 2014) which is significantly below the North West regional average of around 17%.
One of the new traders from last year is Mike Canavan, one of the managing directors of MD Vapours on Burscough Street.
He said: “We have only been here about four months now and it was one of the hardest thing I have ever had to do.
“We used to be in the Indoor Market, but since planning was approved for its demolition we moved into our shop.
“Our business has grown from the market and we are very glad to be in the busy high street.
“Obviously, not every person who walks past the window are potential customers, but we are very happy with the amount of people who walk by and I think that there are definitely a lot less empty shops than there were last year.”
Paul Patterson, a member of the outdoor market traders committee, has said that market sellers have noticed that the town centre is a little busier but that has not yet translated into more trade.
He said: “I don’t think we have seen a rise in sales, but it often takes a while for things to filter up from London.
“I do think that we are coming out of recession and people are starting to believe that too.
“I think that the Ormskirk Market has done really well to survive when so many others have gone.
“There is still a lot more that can be done to help our great market, but things are looking positive, we traders just know how to get on with things.”
West Lancashire Borough Council has said that it is introducing a variety of measures to ensure the high street’s future.
These include a new Business Rates Retail Relief scheme to replace its previous Discount Scheme; commissioning a Ormskirk Town Centre Strategy report that will look deeper into how the council can support the town; and supporting the Healthy High Streets campaign, which aims to provide intensive support over a three-year period.
A spokesperson said: “The council is working with Lancashire County Council to deliver major infrastructure works to help improve the attractiveness of the town centre; some of these works include the planned resurfacing of Moor Street.
“A variety of council-run events take place throughout the year including the very popular ‘Ormskirk Motorfest’ and Christmas-themed events to encourage visitors to the town.
“Although the council does not own any retail units in the town centre, we proactively work with property agents and help to market vacant property.”
Councillor David Griffiths, the new Towns and Villages Portfolio Holder, said: “Ormskirk is performing very well as a town centre when compared with other towns in the North West.
“The council continues to work hard with retailers and our other partners to make Ormskirk an even better place to shop, work and visit.
“We strongly believe the schemes we are involved in will help the town continue to prosper well into the future.”