TWO of southern Monmouthshire's high streets are bucking the national trend of decline, with signs of steady demand for retail space, according to a local property consultant.

Julian Bladen, from the Chepstow office of ETP Property Consultants, said Chepstow and Caldicot stood out against the general pattern of record vacancy rates and plummeting footfall in high streets across the UK.

The most recent figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that between 2012 and 2017, the number of businesses on British high streets fell by two per cent, while those not based on traditional high streets grew by six per cent.

The retail sector has been hit especially hard. Retail jobs count for around 25-30 per cent of high street employment in most parts of the UK. In the time period 2012-2017, the number of high street retail jobs fell in every region of the UK except London.

But Chepstow and Caldicot remain resilient in the face of these gloomy statistics, Mr Bladen said.

“We have let three shops in Chepstow in the last three months," he said. "We have another which is under offer freehold which should complete in the next few weeks.

“We are seeing demand from both national and local retailers.

"If we had more shops on the high street I am sure we could let them.

"We are getting regular enquiries.”

Mr Bladen suggested the extra traffic from the Severn Bridge, following the removal of the tolls, may be a factor in this success – along with extra traffic generated by new housing developments.

But responding to Mr Bladen’s claims, Chepstow’s mayor, Cllr Tom Kirton, said it was too soon for the town to feel those benefits.

“It’s great [ETP] has seen an uptake, but I don’t think it’s down to properties and the bridge – this will definitely have an effect as time goes by,” he said.

Cllr Kirton said a priority was the longevity of businesses in the town.

“I’m concerned with businesses staying businesses – that’s something constituents definitely notice,” he said.

The councillor also suggested a national review of business rates may help high streets across the UK.

“At a town council level, we’re the ones who hear about it, but we have no control over it,” he added.

In Caldicot, ETP has let 16 shops in the past six years in the town centre.

“We currently have three shops available to let that are suitable for a range of potential uses,” Mr Bladen said. “We also have the former Store 21 unit which we have strong interest in at present. Demand is steady, but in view of the size of the town the vacancy rate is actually not that high now compared to when ETP first got involved six years ago.”

Aaron Reeks, director of the Caldicot Town Team, agreed with Mr Bladen’s outlook.

“There’s definitely an upward trend in interest in the area, which is fantastic,” he said.

“We’re noticing independent businesses are [having] and ever-so-slight upward shift in footfall. It’s not as much as we’d like, but there’s definitely a feeling people are supporting local businesses more.”

Mr Reeks suggested Caldicot could be developed as a “niche” destination.

“A lot of people come here from Bristol – they haven’t been to the castle before and they think it’s fantastic,” he said. “We should be capitalising on that, not just for locals but for everyone.”

If you are a trader in Chepstow or Caldicot, we’d love to hear about your experiences on the high street.

Get in touch by emailing