A FREE Press survey has revealed that there are 51 empty retail properties in Bridlington’s main shopping streets.
A walk around the town centre and a visit to Old Town’s High Street revealed the extent of Bridlington’s problem as the resort heads into the summer season blighted by dozens of boarded-up and empty properties.
Two similar surveys conducted by the Free Press over the last decade found that in 2002 the number of empty units in like for like streets was 30 compared to 31 today and in 2008 there were 40 empty shops compared to the current 43 empty outlets in comparable streets.
This year’s total of 51 was reached by including streets that been omitted from the previous surveys in an effort to paint a more comprehensive picture of the scale of the problem.
Depressingly it is the heart of the town centre that is worst affected, with King Street, Prince Street and the entrance walkway to the Promenades Shopping Centre boasting 17 empty units between them.
Promenade is the worst-affected single street, with a total of six empty shops up to the junction with Regent Terrace, while High Street in Old Town is blighted by four closed-down retail buildings.
The survey did not include seasonal businesses which are currently shuttered up, nor did it include the large units within the Promenades Shopping Centre which are boarded off while three shops wait to open up there.
If these outlets has been included, it would have pushed the number of currently closed premises up into the 60s to present a bleak picture of a town currently boarded-up to visitors.
Familiar names to have left Bridlington town centre in recent months include Burger King, Jasmine womenswear and Bay, while Burton menswear is shutting in April.
For Gifty Gresham, who has recently closed her New Barn Restaurant on Prince Street, the alarming number of currently empty premises comes as no surprise.
Since opening her business 10-years-ago, she has witnessed a gradual decline in visitor numbers to Bridlington, beginning when the Spa closed for refurbishment in 2006 and continuing to the present day.
She said: “I think Bridlington has got a huge, huge problem.
“When you talk to all my friends who have restaurants, everybody is saying how bad business is.
“For the last three or four years you don’t make enough in the summer, so the winter is a real struggle.
“It is sad and a shame to have had to let my business go, it was absolutely a difficult decision but in the end we kept putting our own money in and working for nothing seven-days a week and you think, what is the point?
“At the end of the day you are fighting a losing battle and I wouldn’t think of opening up anything else in Bridlington because it isn’t going to work.”
Gifty identified specific problems faced by Bridlington’s shops and restaurants such as high rates and years of disruptive roadworks, but cited a lack of parking spaces as one of the biggest challenges for town centre businesses.
She said: “Apart from my loyal local customers, I relied on visitors but they had such difficulty parking in the town centre that they would just give up and go elsewhere.
“Out of town businesses such as Morrisons which has a cafe, have a big advantage because people can park there for free for as long as they need and don’t have to worry about anybody harassing them for a parking charge.”
Gifty said that many of her out of town customers had even stopped coming to Bridlington altogether due to constant spells of roadworks over the last few years.
“I bumped into one of my old customers in Hull and said ‘why don’t you come and see us anymore’ and they said that Brid was like a work site so they stopped coming,” she said.
“People who live in Bridlington tend to shop elsewhere in places like Hull, Leeds and York, so we rely on visitors and when they stop coming, you have got a big problem.”