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It's crunch time'

PUBLISHED: 16:14 03 December 2008 | UPDATED: 15:48 25 August 2010

TRADERS fearful of the credit crunch turning their high street into a ghost town are to petition their council to take action.

TRADERS fearful of the credit crunch turning their high street into a 'ghost town' are to petition their council to take action.

Kaz Price, a worker at Petals florist in High Street, Sidcup, has launched a petition to urge Bexley council to save the town centre.

Empty units in the high street rose to 17 yesterday when The Outlet hardware store closed, whilst the Black Horse pub remains boarded up.

Ms Price said: "Now that Woolworths could be closing, people are starting to take the credit crunch a bit more seriously. Traders are struggling, and we need something drastic to help stop this place becoming a ghost town.

"If that means incentives for people opening new shops or closing the road once a week to hold a proper market, so be it."

The Save Sidcup High Street petition has gathered more than 200 signatures from concerned shoppers and traders in just two days. It will be sent by Ms Price and Sidcup High Street Promotions Group to Bexley council on January 17.

Richard Dean, 80, of Appledore Crescent, Sidcup, signed the petition on Tuesday, complaining that the high street used to be a community centre.

He said: "I've seen the high street deteriorate over the last 50 years. It needs more essential shops."

Despite the decline of shops on the high street, council figures show that footfall in Sidcup has increased from 10,000 people a day to 15,000 a day over the last four years. But John Waters, Bexley council's member for regeneration, said the number of empty units in the street was too high.

He said: "There is a limit to what the council can do, we are feeling the credit crunch ourselves. If traders want to organise an event and close the high street for it, I would certainly support that."

Traders in neighbouring Welling High Street also face a dire situation, according to John Setford, manager of Crusin' Records.

Tesco, in Embassy Court has closed to make way for a larger store on the same site whilst the Co-op has been bought by Morrisons but has not been reopened.

Mr Setford said: "Residents who would normally walk past the shops to get their food are now going by car to another area.

"It's tragic. No shops have closed yet but they are struggling and I know some are seeing sales drop off by 40 per cent."

Welling Town Centre Partnership wants to claim a 'matter of change in circumstance' from the Valuation Office Agency to get its business rates lowered

temporarily.

In a bid to attract shoppers to town centres, Bexley council bosses are to make all parking free in town centres on the two Saturdays before Christmas, December 13 and 20.

The move will be largely paid for by the 2.5 per cent VAT cut, which will not be deducted from car parking charges.

A continental market will also be held in High Street, Sidcup, next Thursday, with Christmas bands and a visit from Father Christmas.

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