COUNCILLORS are urging borough chiefs not to forget about their town centres as they look to increase footfall.

While major regeneration projects are in the pipeline for Crewe and Macclesfield, Cheshire East Council has also committed to producing ‘vitality plans’ to support each of its other town centres.

Peter Skates, director of growth and enterprise at CEC, told a scrutiny meeting on Monday: “The action plan for each town probably will be completely different because there are specific issues for that particular town.

“So an action plan for Wilmslow might be completely different from an action plan for Middlewich.

“But we need to get in under the detail and understand some of the issues which are causing increased vacancy levels or increased pressure.”

CEC has committed to producing vitality plans for Middlewich, Knutsford, Wilmslow and Handforth, along with Alsager, Congleton, Nantwich, Poynton and Sandbach.

The council is currently looking for a consultancy firm to carry out the work, and it expects to have the first drafts produced between April and September.

Data presented to the environment and regeneration overview and scrutiny committee showed that in 2017-18 – the most recent figures available – only Crewe and Congleton had a higher percentage of town centre shop vacancies than the UK average across Cheshire East.

But Cllr Tony Dean, Conservative CEC member for Knutsford, warned that the picture had changed in his ward since then – and urged council chiefs to step up their work in the borough’s smaller towns.

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He said: “A lot of people come to Cheshire East – into Nantwich or into Knutsford – and we must not leave those town centres behind.

“Knutsford was the best for not having too many vacancies – it has fallen off a cliff in the last 18 months.

“King Street is now like a desert – tumbleweed wafts down there these days with the amount of closed premises – so it is not the picture that you think.”

Cllr David Jefferay, Residents of Wilmslow member for Wilmslow East, echoed Cllr Dean’s comments – and insisted the council could save time when studying Wilmslow by looking at the policies in the town’s neighbourhood plan.

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He said: “The neighbourhood plan for Wilmslow is very detailed, it has got aspirations for the different areas of town, so please bear that in mind.

“If you go and do exactly the same high-level work as you have done with Macclesfield it is going to be a waste of time.”

CEC is currently working on major regeneration schemes in Crewe, both at Royal Arcade in the town centre and in the area surrounding the town’s proposed HS2 hub.

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Meanwhile, a blueprint for Macclesfield's future was unveiled last year, with work set to take place in the Castle Street area this year.