Growing fears over the decline of Carnoustie High Street

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RETAILERS in Carnoustie are urging the public to take to the High Street and show their support for local businesses over fears that they may soon all be gone.

In recent years a number of local businesses have had to close their doors and the main thoroughfare is full of empty properties.

Many shopkeepers have expressed concerns that residents are choosing to visit big supermarkets and shopping centres rather than buying locally.

Treasurer of the Carnoustie Business Association (CBA) Mark Ritchie said: “It is a huge concern for us.

“You used to be able to walk from one end of Carnoustie High Street to the other and pick up anything you needed from shoes to a three-piece suite.

“We even used to have four petrol stations but now you need to go to Arbroath or Dundee to fill up your car.

“Everybody needs fuel but now you can just pick it up next to a supermarket where you’ve got all your other shopping.

“Although the population of Carnoustie is growing most of the people are commuters who go through to Dundee and back for work and never come down onto the High Street.

“The situation is terrible - it’s going to end up a ghost town.

Carnoustie used to have a bustling High Street as was evident in the number of businesses competing against each other. At one time there were five butcher shops in the town but their number has dwindled to one - and that, too, is set to close its doors on February 26.

The proprietor of Stewart’s Butchers, Stewart Bell, has decided that enough is enough and he is calling time on the business he has run for over a decade.

He said: “Unfortunately it is just a ghost town now. The last two years have been absolutely diabolical for business.

“The first nine years I was here were great but in the past year-and-a-half the High Street has been deserted - even on a Saturday.

“Things can’t go on the way they are going.”

Other shop owners in the town are concerned that they are not getting the support they need from the local authority.

Melanie Coleman of Mel’s Pet Shop said: “We need to get an incentive in the town for more people to come in, something that will make people want to come to the town and start a business.

“Carnoustie seems to get used as a sort of logo in Angus to attract tourists - especially for golf - but the locals get nothing from this.

“When tourists do come here for golf they by-pass the High Street completely and they have no incentive to drive back into town once they have left.

“Golf tourists are given no encouragement to come to the High Street.”

Colleague Alex Rollo added: “The Business Park which was spoken about before would bring a lot of jobs to Carnoustie.

“A lot of the population commute through to Dundee and they pick up everything they need when they are through there.

“Carnoustie has become a dormitory town.

“When the snow hit back in December everyone felt that it was busier because people either couldn’t or didn’t want to travel out of the town.”

Chairman of the CBA and proprietor of The Fobel Shop Peter Burke shares the concern of many shopkeepers, but feels that there is still time to solve the problem.

He said: “We need young entrepreneurs to come into the town and start a business that will draw people in. Bring something in that people need.

“I attended a meeting between the Carnoustie Community Council, Carnoustie Forward and the Community Planning Team that was very positive.

“It was an economic review of Carnoustie and we discussed the empty shops and enterprise in the town.

“WE ALSO plan to conduct a survey in the town to find out what shops the people of Carnoustie would like to see.

“We plan to do this sometime within the next month.

“Hopefully that will give businesses an idea of the kind of things that would bring people into the town.

Kathleen Crowe, Secretary of the CBA and proprietor of Links to Scotland, feels that there is a knock-on effect of how closed businesses affect those who are still running or looking to start up.

She said: “We are very lucky here [at Links to Scotland] and we can’t fault the local people who do support us, but there is not enough here to sustain any new shops coming in.

“We would like to see new shops come in but it costs a lot of money to start a business.

Ms Crowe agrees with her fellow shopkeepers who feel that the town needs some sort of attraction to bring people in.

She said: “We need something that will draw in the crowds and something that will perhaps give non-golfing partners or families something to do while their other half plays golf.

“We need the support from the council.”

Mr Burke said that the need to bring something new to the town had been discussed at the meeting.

He said: “We discussed bringing things in and making some changes - flower baskets on all of the shops, a heritage trail and bringing in a Town Square.

“There were lots of ideas and lots of actions at the meeting.”

Newsagent Ian MacDougall, who has had businesses in Carnoustie for over 40 years, commented on the ever changing nature of the town.

He said: “The streets have gone a lot quieter recently - I suppose it’s a lot to do with supermarkets.

“Who would have thought you would have to travel to Dundee or Arbroath for groceries.

“If you closed the supermarkets you would see all the grocery stores start up again on the High Street.

“I’ve seen a lot of change over the years. It used to be very busy in the summer back in the 1970s with a lot of people coming up from Glasgow on holiday, but that changed when people started to go abroad.

“You have to keep working at a business. We still work at it here in the shop and we have a good, loyal customer base.

“It’s a sign of the times and it hits a smaller place much harder.”