Colchester: MP Sir Bob Russell praises EADT ‘Shop Local’ initiative

THE East Anglian Daily Times’ “Shop Local” campaign has been praised by one of the region’s MPs in the House of Commons during a debate on the future of town centre shopping.

Colchester’s Liberal Democrat MP Sir Bob Russell also congratulated the East of England Co-operative Society for its record on sourcing supplies from local producers.

The debate took place the day after Peacocks, Bon Marche and Past Times, all of which have stores in Colchester, became the latest national retail names to announce plans for entering administration.

“My hope is that buyers will be found and the businesses will continue, because they are an important part of the retail mix and they employ local people,” said Sir Bob.

He told MPs that Colchester’s High Street ranked as the oldest in the country, following the line of a road built when Colchester (Camulodum) was the first capital of Roman Britain nearly 2,000 years ago, but like other town centres was under increasing commercial pressure, not least from out-of-town shopping centres.

However, he stressed that it was “not all doom and gloom”, adding: “I am told by those who know about these things that Colchester has fared better than most places for retail sales. Indeed, our department store Williams & Griffin, one of those great local stores that is now part of an independent group, has plans to expand its floor space by 50%”

In addition to praising the EADT’s “Shop Local” campaigns and the East of England Co-operative Society, Sir Bob also highlighted the work of the Essex Chambers of Commerce, the Association of Convenience Stores and the Federation of Small Businesses.

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He put forward his own idea for the 100 or so small shops in Sir Isaac’s Walk, Eld Lane and Short Wyre Street – all of them built on top of the line of the southern section of the town’s Roman Wall – which he said should promote themselves as “Centurion’s Walk”.

And Sir Bob also suggested helping small shops by giving them a “rates holiday” on their first 500 sq ft of space, funded by a levy on out-of-town car parks, and repeated his call for Colchester to have an indoor market.