Landlords apply to turn vacant St Helier shops into new homes

A vacant shop in St Helier. Credit: ITV Channel

The vacancy rate of shops in St Helier has risen to just over 8%, with some landlords now applying to turn empty shops into new homes.

Some say the move will help address the island's housing crisis and that the town centre needs to evolve as consumer habits change and more retailers move online.

Town centre manager Connor Burgher said: "We have seen lots of planning applications for change of use.

"I think we could see the town centre move and shift, and as we see more residential units built around the outskirts of town, that is really going to change the way people move through St Helier."

Connor Burgher says the number of shops being transformed into housing is evidence of the town centre evolving. Credit: ITV Channel

Jayne Hutchings, who manages T.J. Hutchings on York Street, added: "You have lost that proper town centre where there are lots of little shops down side streets, because all the side streets are full of flats now."

She and her husband Trevor will be ending the lease on their jewellery shop after more than 30 years next month. The couple have been unable to find anyone to take over the running of the business, but their landlord is going to keep the space for commercial use.

The couple are retiring and insist their decision has nothing to do with finances.

However, they were forced to move out of their previous premises on Queen Street several years ago, "because the rent more than doubled when the lease was renewed".

Jayne and Trevor are closing their shop in March. Credit: ITV Channel

The issue of rent increases was raised in the States Assembly last November when one backbencher asked the Minister for Economic Development "whether he was aware of some business spaces facing above inflationary rent increases on their commercial properties," quoting an example of when a shop tenant was allegedly "subjected to a 250% increase her rent".

Grants have been issued to help small businesses affected by rising inflation and Jersey's commercial vacancy rate is still significantly lower than the UK's (13.9%) - however, higher than Guernsey's (7.8%).

Connor Burgher added: "The rising cost of doing business is only going to increase over the coming months and years, so I urge islanders to support the town centre by using it."

When asked about the future of Jersey's capital, he said: "If we don't use it, we'll lose it."