By Ben Blackledge

SPIRALLING rents and the struggling retail sector has left a prime Abingdon shopping street littered with derelict units and worried businesses.

Bury Street in the centre of Abingdon has seen several businesses leave in recent months and now has five large retail units sat empty; two of them back-to-back and in the centre of the street.

One unit is currently utilised as a ‘community space’ by the Friends of Abingdon who lease the unit rent-free but are required to move out with one week’s notice should a new tenant emerge.

Leader of Abingdon Town Council, Mike Badcock, thinks Abingdon is just another victim of the retail slump with many customers choosing to now buy online.

He said: “It’s a temporary blip because major retailers are looking at what they’re doing [to counter] the internet. The internet has changed everything.

“But many new shops are opening up in Abingdon and I think it’s moving into the 21st century, it’s certainly not all doom and gloom.”

The Bury Street complex is owned by Aberdeen Asset Management, which is currently advertising three of the empty units totalling over 5,000 square feet of ground floor retail space. The owner was contacted for comment.

Ian Collett, owner of The Bookstore on Bury Street, believes the problems stem from high rents and a general fall in trading across the retail sector.

He said: “[The landlord] will say it’s the right rent for the property. They might be happy to keep a unit empty rather than drop the rent, otherwise everyone else will be up in arms.

“It’s also because of internet shopping and the public are concerned about Brexit so there’s a lot of nerves out there at the moment.”

Despite the problems, Mr Collett thinks the issues are bigger than the town: He added: “I’ve got to be realistic and say Abingdon is the same as any other high street. I live in Bicester -- and it has all the same problems.”

The vacancies are on top of issues with the Abingdon Business Improvement District.

The scheme aimed to re-vitalise the shopping district with businesses paying 1.75 per cent of their income to fund facilities and increase footfall but in February the company folded leaving many traders scrambling to recoup their money.

A spokesperson for Vale of White Horse District Council said, “We are committed to supporting local businesses in Abingdon and last year we ran a successful independent shops project that resulted in eight new businesses moving into the town.”