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Art displays scheme for high streets

PUBLISHED: 09:46 10 March 2009 | UPDATED: 08:01 01 August 2010

AS the number of empty high street shops increases, local artists are being asked to help breathe some life back into Waveney's town centres.

A scheme which would see vacant store fronts used as exhibition spaces for local art groups has been proposed by Waveney District Council as a way of improving the appearance and atmosphere of shopping areas.

AS the number of empty high street shops increases, local artists are being asked to help breathe some life back into Waveney's town centres.

A scheme which would see vacant store fronts used as exhibition spaces for local art groups has been proposed by Waveney District Council as a way of improving the appearance and atmosphere of shopping areas.

Andrew Kitchen, the council's arts and heritage service manager, wants artists to be able to display their work in empty shop windows to make recession-hit high streets look more dynamic.

As well as showcasing art work, the displays would make business premises more appealing to prospective occupants and hopefully reducing the risk of vandalism.

Mr Kitchen said that the problem of empty stores affects Lowestoft and the district's market towns. He said: “There is not a high street or other town shopping road in the district which is not already blighted by empty shop premises, and they are growing in quantity rapidly as the credit crunch takes its toll.

“What I propose will not fill the empty shops - that will take time and significant change. But this idea will improve the street scenery and make places feel better and more positive, and staying positive is the only way out of difficulties.

“If shop windows look full, bright and interesting, places will look more dynamic - encouraging people to be bolder and more adventurous in planning for better times.”

Earlier this month, the results of a Local Government Association survey showed that two thirds of councils said the recession is reducing the appeal of high streets. The survey found that council's want the power to turn empty stores over to community uses - such as temporary libraries or youth clubs - to bring the streets back to life.

Mr Kitchen added: “The diversity of displays could keep shopping centres fresh and alive. The alternative is smashed glass and bleak boarding. So can this idea actually do any harm?”

Any art or heritage groups, shop owners and landlords who are interested in helping to get the project started should contact Andrew Kitchen on 01502 523397 or at Andrew.kitchen@waveney.gov.uk.

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