New States member Steve Falla shone a light on the issue after he counted 22 closed down shops at the weekend in the High Street, Smith Street, Commercial Arcade, the Pollet, the seafront, and Fountain Street.
He said he could have probably doubled the number if he had included the Old Quarter.
After posting photos of the closed shops on social media, he was inundated with suggestions on how Town could plot a comeback post-Covid.
Deputy Falla, who is vice-president of Economic Development and also a member of Employment & Social Security, called it a ‘complex and multi-faceted’ challenge that had been on the radar of politicians and the community for years, but he detected a new groundswell keen to tackle it.
‘What encouraged me was that instead of people just crying into their beer saying it’s all doom and gloom, there were a lot of constructive suggestions to make Town a vibrant place of creativity, imagination, entrepreneurship, and innovation.
‘I think there is no silver bullet for this, but there could be a revolver of different solutions that one might fire at it.
‘And that will involve cross-departmental working in the States, it will involve the retailers working together with politicians and others, landlords for example, to try to come up with a holistic solution that will bring life back into Town, and reward those excellent retailers that are here, encourage others to come and establish themselves, and also perhaps encourage other types of business. For example, fitness studios might fit comfortably within cafes, bars, restaurants and shops.’
One theme that keeps coming up in a new vision for Town is the island’s need for more housing, and for Deputy Falla that idea is key.
‘We’ve got young people crying out for somewhere to live.
‘How cool would it be to live in Town in a cool flat above a vibrant, mixed use centre?
‘I think it just needs some imagination, maybe some encouragement, and maybe the States can find some ways of supporting and encouraging and incentivising landlords and others to make that happen.’
The Development & Planning Authority is one of the important components in the regeneration of Town.
Draft development frameworks for Mansell Street, the South Esplanade, and the Lower Pollet are due to be completed by June this year.
Deputy Victoria Oliver, the president of the DPA, is a former professional surveyor with lots of practical ideas about how to make Town more successful, and was in firm agreement that it would require everyone to work together.
She said that the Island Development Plan was not a barrier because it already allowed for shops to convert to residential.
In her experience, the thriving town centres were the ones that were places to shop, work, sleep, eat, socialise and relax.
‘As soon as you put residential upstairs you immediately have more people in Town so there’s more footfall to shop and go out to cafes and restaurants.
‘If you look at any of the really successful developments in the UK, and I know Guernsey is different, but they are all multi-occupancy, they’re not just retail, they’re not just leisure, they have the whole caboodle.
‘And there’s less need to park so there’s a reduction in cars, people are already there.’