THE owner of an independent record store in Evesham forced to shut down after a period of hard times has blasted the way the town is being run.

Gary Smith, owner of Rapture, closed his Evesham store earlier this month after eight years blaming months of tough trading conditions in the town.

The abrupt closure of the popular shop in the Riverside Centre, which welcomed celebrities including Newton Faulkner, Scouting for Girls and McFly, has left yet another empty retail unit, which Mr Smith says is no surprise after a "long line of howlers" made by those in charge.

He said: "Unfortunately the people responsible for running Evesham town centre have the let the good people of Evesham down.

"The bridge fiasco is just the latest in a long line of real howlers, but to ruin Christmas trade in that way was unforgivable. Whoever let Tesco drag Next, Argos, etc, away from the town also needs to be named and shamed in my opinion.

"Evesham needs some radical thinking, I have lots of ideas, many probably unworkable, but something needs to be done."

Despite this Mr Smith added it was not all down to the town and thanked his "incredible" staff and all their customers, which he said had become friends. "The townsfolk of Evesham have been fantastic, we’ve had a lot of laughs."

The sad shut down of Rapture comes after the re-opening of Evesham's Abbey Bridge, which was closed for nearly six months over the Christmas period.

But the knock on effect of the closure is still being felt, says Tony Rowland, chairman of the Vale of Evesham Commerce and Tourism Association.

"I feel the town has suffered a tragic loss, in hindsight the bridge project was fundamentally flawed before it even started. Unfortunately we are still seeing the after effects.

"I am very sad Rapture has gone, I am not surprised. You can't blame the town entirely but I am sure it exacerbated the situation.

"The situation is evolving. In the future we will see more of a cafe culture in the town."

This idea is supported by chairman of the Evesham Market Town Partnership and town and district councillor Gerry O'Donnell, who said many people were working hard to move the town forward.

"It's about retail yes, but about leisure and food and beverage. It's about providing space for the population. It's multi faceted because Evesham is the unique selling point."

Evesham's new mayor Cllr Charlie Homer added he was sad to see the closure of Rapture but it was important for all the organisations in the town to work together to move forward.