ILKESTON’S Chamber of Trade have issued a rallying cry to Erewash Borough Council to sort out the town centre.
The Chamber’s president, David Thorpe, has told the Advertiser that more needs to be done to bring businesses and shoppers back to Ilkeston and has come up with an idea that he wants the council to back.
As part of the scheme he wants to form a consortium of local firms to team together and open up the Woolworths building to help foster start-up businesses.
“The building is big enough to be split into smaller units and rented out on an easy come easy go basis to people wanting to start their own business,” he told the Advertiser.
“If they do well then they may go on and invest in the area.
“I’ve seen this done in other areas of the country and it can be very successful but we would need the support of the council.”
Mr Thorpe, who runs his business in the town, has worked out the figures and says that £2,000-a-week could keep the doors open.
He added: “We’d need some sort of sponsorship and that would be the difficulty but if we could get enough people together and the finances sorted this could work out quite favourably for the town.”
And Sharon Flint, chairman of the Chamber of Trade, also threw her weight behind the plans.
“What we’re really interested in is having Ilkeston revitalised and I don’t think there’s anyone in the town who’d argue with that fact,” she said.
“We’re looking to work very closely with the council to make that happen.
“Woolworths is a building that would lend itself brilliantly to something like David has suggested.
“It’s standing empty and that’s a waste when it could be being used to revitalise this town.”
Councillor David Stephenson, lead member for resources at Erewash Borough Council said: “It’s a blooming good idea.
“There’s got to be horses for courses and if the Chamber of Trade think it’s a good idea they should do it, they’d have lots of support.”
But Cllr Stephenson told the Advertiser that the council would need to see details before it could make any comment or decision on financially supporting the suggestion.
He added: “The idea is brilliant and I think that anything to get businesses and shoppers in the town should be seriously considered.
“The Chamber of Trade is a group of businesses, they’re commercial people, I’m not going to tell them how to run their shops and businesses, if they think this would work for the town then they have my support.
“Without seeing a detailed proposal about costs and how the idea would work I can’t say whether the council could give financial support but we would definitely help in any other ways we could.
“I shop on Bath Street and in Ilkeston town centre and we need to get more people doing the same.”
Deputy leader of the Erewash Labour Group, Cllr Frank Phillips, described the idea as ‘innovative’ and said: “This is just the sort of thing that our town needs to see happen.
“It would be great to have an enterprise centre that could be split up into units, rented out to people starting out and helping them get that foot in the door.
“It’s the sort of thing that if it worked well, we could other areas of the country looking at Ilkeston and doing the same thing.
“This town desperately needs to see something happen and this idea could well breathe new life into our high street.”