Landlords blamed for Beaufort woes

Kate Emery
Pam Herron. Picture: Dione Davidson/The West Australian

The chairwoman of the Beaufort Street Network has suggested penalising landlords who allow their shops to fall into disrepair or stay empty for too long as part of a push to breathe new life into the popular food, wine and shopping strip.

Pam Herron said landlords should be encouraged to consider options such as pop-up shops, where retailers take up short-term tenancies at a reduced rent.

High rents have been blamed for squeezing out independent retailers on Beaufort Street.

Ms Herron said locals did not want the street to become purely bar and restaurant-focused.

"I think because of the success of the bars and cafes and restaurants and franchises that can afford to pay higher rents, landlords want as much as they can get - they (shops) are big investments," she said.

"They want the market rent but if the market rent is too high for the independent retailers then we're going to become a bar area and we don't want that so we're doing whatever we can to support retail."

The network, mostly local businesspeople, will launch its action plan next week outlining its vision for the street, which is facing growing competition from precincts such as Northbridge, Leederville and Victoria Park.

The City of Vincent backed the plan, which includes more seating, better shade trees and less red tape to encourage street performers and alfresco dining.

The plan is based on surveys of people who lived near, shopped on or visited Beaufort Street and focused on the part of the street between Queens Crescent and Broome Street.

The idea of penalising landlords "for allowing a shop to get into disrepair on a main street or remain vacant" was not included in the plan but Ms Herron said it had been discussed to address the problem of shops that remained vacant for a long time.

Vincent mayor John Carey welcomed the plan, elements of which were already being acted on. He said the problem of empty shops was serious and demoralising but he doubted a penalty system would be effective.

"I think the stick approach wouldn't necessarily work because if a property owner can afford to leave his or her property vacant for two years I don't know what financial disincentive you can bring in to stop them from doing that. What you've got to do is try to create positive incentives," Mr Carey said.