SHOPS in a struggling part of Colchester are relying on a credible cultural quarter scheme to boost business.

Priory Walk has been broadly acknowledged as needing a bit of tender, loving care.

Peacocks was the last company to leave earlier this year.

It sparked crisis talks between Colchester Council and Mountcrest Associates, which own the shops.

However, things are looking up as a new hairdressers called Salon Stars has opened and deals are underway to fill more empty units.

Property agent Jonathan Reubin said: “We have a tenant lined up for the Linens Direct unit in Long Wyre Street. A planning application is being drawn up and the opening will be in spring. We have a retail proposal being negotiated for the Superdrug unit and the use will complement Sainsbury’s and undoubtedly increase footfall.

“We are negotiating terms on the Dr Scholl shop and shortly this will be in solicitor’s hands.

“We have had meetings with architects to draft out remodelling proposals and look at alternative uses for void areas.”

However, Mr Reubin said delays on the nearby Cultural Quarter development could be an issue.

He added: “My clients are disappointed with the progress of the St Botolph’s regeneration programme and are trusting a worthwhile scheme is agreed that in addition to a residential element, brings commercial and cultural uses.”

Of the 18 units in Priory Walk, six are closed.

Ian Duggan, who will open ID hairdressing on Saturday, is confident the shopping area has a bright future.

The last time his unit was open was five years ago, when it offered body building supplements. People have asked why he chose Priory Walk to start a new business.

He said: “Two years ago I wouldn’t have moved there, but because of the new development, and Curzon, I chose there.

“When I was a child it used to be a busy part of town, and over the years it has lost it.

“In the next two years I believe there will be a massive improvement.”

This will be the first time Ian, 37, has opened a unisex salon.

He said: “We had our daughter two years ago and it made me think a lot about myself. I have always been passionate but realised I needed more so that’s why I have invested in this.”