‘Saffron Walden high street will die unless it is given a lifeline’ says company boss

Nick Osborne

Nick Osborne - Credit: Archant

The death of Saffron Walden’s high street will not be far off unless more is done to support independent ­retailers, it has been claimed.

On Wednesday last week, a family-run business which had been at the heart of the town for almost 40 years went into liquidation.

Nick Osborne, who took over his father’s audio-visual specialists Chew and Osborne in 1994, told the Reporter the King Street store had proved too costly to run and was unable to compete with online prices.

He said: “When you’ve got bricks and mortar the cost of paying rent, staff and business rates mean it is not a level playing field with online retailers.

“Most are based on industrial estates and all they do is receive orders at the click of a mouse.”

Mr Osborne, who is also a town councillor, said: “Things got progressively worse for us over the summer, partly because people were not coming to Saffron Walden as much.

“The recession hit us but so did other factors. People were coming in for advice and then going away to buy online because we could not compete with the lower prices.”

Most Read

He called for incentives to be introduced to entice people into the town.

“It’s about reducing barriers. Car parking needs to be cheaper and more accessible and more has to be done to reduce fixed costs.

“Otherwise the high street will just die.”

Last week Uttlesford District Council negotiated a compensation deal with Waitrose over the loss of short-stay car parking spaces while the Hill Street store refurbishes Fairycroft car park.

Mr Osborne urged the authority to pump the cash into the high street.

“It has to be plugged back into local traders,” he said.

“The district council is responsible for providing short-stay parking so if it is not doing that the money needs to be given back to retailers.”

District council leader Jim Ketteridge was unable to confirm how the compensation package would be spent but ­indicated some might go to improved signage aimed at encouraging shoppers to use Swan Meadow car park.