Empty shops do no good to dales village, says councillor

The building which Askrigg Foundation hopes to convert to homes, retaining the shop.

By Betsy Everett

Parish councillors have called on trustees of a charitable foundation to find tenants as soon as possible for two empty shop units in the centre of a dales village.
Councillor James Hodgson said a number of people had expressed an interest in renting the units on the ground floor of a three-storey building owned by the Askrigg Foundation.
“It does no good to anybody to have these units sitting empty in the middle of the village and they’ve been empty for a long time now,” he told Askrigg and Low Abbotside parish council.                                     The story continues after the adverts. . .
Mr Hodgson, a former trustee of the foundation, added that a potential tenant had approached him to rent one of the shops and had said he could move in immediately. “They’ve got quite a list of people who want to go in. Three or four have expressed an interest. I know there is work to be done, but the Foundation are not really shaping themselves.
“They’ve said they can’t get anybody in until work has been done and that this could start in three months’ time. But I understand no planning applications have been made so I think that’s a hugely optimistic timescale. If they’re not letting tenants in until the work is finished I think we’re looking at years, not months, and it doesn’t do much for the look of this village.”
Councillor Greta Kirkbride agreed. “The empty shops make the village look really bad,” she said.
Councillor Allen Kirkbride, who is also a trustee of the Foundation, said one of the units, until recently occupied by Askrigg Antiques and Collectibles, had in fact only been empty for a week.
“I am never happy with empty buildings in the village but this has been on and off for a long time. The upstairs has been empty for years but things are moving on. They are going ahead but until we get the plans properly sorted out we can’t let the units. You are pessimistic but I am optimistic,” he said.
Mr Hodgson said one of the units had in fact been empty for years.
“It’s not because nobody wants it. Quite a few people are eager to go in and the reason they haven’t been able to is down to the Foundation,” he added.
Members agreed that a letter be sent to the Askrigg Foundation, expressing concern about the empty shops and saying they hoped they would be occupied soon.
After the meeting Gemma Anderson, chair of the Foundation trustees, said the trustees had decided to allow the two commercial units to remain empty in the short term, despite “a number of expressions of interest.”
“Following the community engagement last year on the affordable housing need, we have applied for the Community Led Housing grant and hope to hear back about that imminently. We have architects lined up and have been advised that if the project gets the go-ahead, we need to keep the whole building empty to minimise disruption. This also means that we may avoid a large rates bill. More updates will be displayed in the window of the shop as soon as we have something to share and we look forward to seeing the units in use as quickly as possible.”