St Andrews shops bucking the retail trend

Shops in St Andrews town centre don't lie empty for long.
Shops in St Andrews town centre don't lie empty for long.

The retail economy in north east Fife is thriving, according to Councillor Tim Brett, the leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Fife Council.

Only 4.74 per cent of St Andrews shops are empty, Councillor Brett reports, while Anstruther has only three empty shop units. The figures come from a national survey of vacant town centre properties.

Councillor Brett commented that the improving figures were “extremely encouraging”, adding: “Especially considering that the average for the whole of Fife has increased from 14.97 per cent to 16.15 per cent. It is to be hoped these figures can be further improved and also that the rest of Fife will soon catch up.”

St Andrews is working hard to maintain its good record with plans for a Business Improvement District (BID) forging ahead.

The first phase of the project - a survey of businesses in the town to gauge their reaction to the idea - is nearing completion and responses so far are described by the BID team as “very encouraging”.

Now meetings are being held with individuals to discuss concerns and questions that have been raised about the BID process.

BID steering group chairman Ken Dalton explained: “As the consultation process goes on, we hope to provide the town with all the answers it needs to weigh up and balance local circumstances. The final decision will be in the hands of the businesses themselves.”

In the meantime, Mr Dalton said that the BID St Andrews project had secured funding to deliver what he described as “an innovative e-commerce project” and that 100 local businesses would soon be recruited to take part.

“In addition, the University of St Andrews Playfair project students has taken on the role of researching waste management issues and possible solutions for the BID St Andrews initiative” said Mr Dalton.

A BID is an initiative led by business to work together and invest in improvements not publicly funded in their area.

It raises additional funding which businesses themselves decide how to spend to strengthen the local economy. The BID proposal was launched earlier this summer and businesses will be balloted next summer on whether a BID should go ahead in St Andrews.

A wide range of local businesses is represented on the BID St Andrews steering group and it has recently been joined by the University of St Andrews and local Fife councillor Brian Thomson.