READERS reacted to the news that Carlisle's declining city centre, with its growing number of empty units, will be highlighted at a public meeting next week.

Councillor Robert Betton (Botcherby, Independent Group) is due to highlight businesses which have closed in the city recently, including high-profile closures such as Wilko and Debenhams, in a meeting of Cumberland Council on January 16.

Phil Jobson said: "Part of the answer is for the Government to apply different VAT rates to online/mail order sales (unsupervised sales) compared with face-to-face retail (supervised sales). This fairly reflects the contribution made to local cohesion by bricks and mortar retailers."

Rachel Sharp commented: "They should remodel The Lanes. They'll never fill all the empty units again. The expansion over the turn of the millennium was brilliant but the retail picture's changed drastically UK-wide since the 00s."

Jacqueline Bilsland said she visited Carlisle over Christmas but went home within an hour. "There is nothing to go into town for now. So people are going to shop online. Maybe the council should cut the rates for a start."

Kerry Minnican commented: "I visited the city centre a couple of times before Christmas and was shocked by how run down it has become. So many empty business premises and I fear there will be more to come. My parents don’t drive so often got the bus into Carlisle from Wigton to shop in the Tesco, B&M and Wilko that have all now closed."