A Royston councillor has backed a campaign to 'unlock the High Street' - calling for an end to shuttered shops.

At a North Herts Council meeting on Thursday, January 19, Cllr Chris Hinchcliff - Labour and Co-operative councillor for Royston Palace, helped led the Labour and Lib Dem efforts to reinvigorate High Street shops.

They are calling for the Government to scrap business rates and replace them with a system that levels the playing field between local shops and online retail giants.

Royston Crow: Councillor Chris Hinchcliff led the campaign to unlock the high streetCouncillor Chris Hinchcliff led the campaign to unlock the high street (Image: Courtesy of Cllr Chris Hinchliff)

Cllr Hinchliff said: "The High Street is a key part of Royston’s historic identity and the loss of local shops and services is an issue that comes up again and again when I talk to residents. 

"The last decade of economic policy has been relentlessly weighted against communities like Royston and levelling the playing field on taxes between local retailers and massive online corporations is something we desperately need to see, while providing new opportunities for community owned and co-operative businesses will help the beating heart of the town thrive once more.

"Unfortunately, while Labour and Lib-Dem councillors came together to support our High Street, 10 Conservatives chose to oppose these sensible policies and voted against boosting our local economy."

The motion, which passed on the 19th, commits North Herts Council to taking steps that will allow new co-operatives, social enterprises and community businesses to open their doors on Royston's High Street.

Leader of North Herts' Conservative group Cllr Claire Strong said: "Conservatives are not against business or having our towns/village communities in North Hertfordshire as thriving hubs.

"We welcome new and innovative businesses starting up to occupy vacant shop units and this is not party political - unless of course you want to make it so. 

"In the motion brought by the Labour/Liberal Democrat joint administration they called on the council to write to government to scrap business rates but failed to offer any details of what the replacement would be except that it should be "fit for purpose". 

"In the debate a number of Conservative councillors mentioned the support that government has given to local business throughout the pandemic and since, for example reducing business rates, extending business energy support or freezing corporation tax rises for small businesses.

"Rather than trying to score political points by writing letters, actions speak louder than words and Cllr Hinchliff should be encouraging his fellow Councillors in the Labour/Lib Dem run administration to reduce town centre parking charges and in condemning his Cabinet colleagues for have recently increased them by up to 17 per cent in some cases.

"Our local businesses need shoppers coming into our towns to shop local and should be encouraged to do so by direct action from the administration, including those suggested by Conservative members during the debate, rather than writing letters to a government that has already spent billions supporting our high streets and continues to do so."