Last night’s Panorama on BBC One looked at a pressing problem for all our towns and cities, including Sidmouth:
How to save the UK’s crisis-hit High Streets
Professor Cathy Parker is co-chair of the Institute of Place Management (IPM) and helps lead the High Streets Task Force, set up by the government last year to support the transformation of town centres. “Retail has only ever been a part of the functions of a town and city. In the 1980s and 90s, we got a little bit fixated on retail and we just thought that the whole town and the whole city was all about retail.”
As we became more fixated, so High Streets started to lose their individuality. Many once-distinctive town centres became home to the same old set of stores owned by a limited number of powerful chains. To survive and thrive, High Streets need to adapt. But before they do, according to Prof Parker, “places need to understand their function and the things that draw people in to the town centres”. To reinvigorate them, we need what you might call a Mars bar approach; building town centres which aren’t just about buying stuff, but places you can “work, rest and play”.
Richard McGuckin is Stockton-on-Tees council’s economic growth and development director. He has been one of the leaders of a move to change the whole profile of their High Street. “We’ve created what we describe as a large outdoor room so that we’ve got places for performers and our large sporting events that we have right throughout the year here.”
And ITV’s Tonight show on Thursday will be looking at the same issues:
High Streets: End of the Road?
To some, high streets are more than just a place of business – they are a crucial part of the community. Geraint Vincent also meets those trying to attract more visitors, and explores whether everyone has a responsibility to support town centres.
The BBC was in Honiton last month:
General election 2019: Politics on Honiton High Street
On market day, Honiton’s High Street feels busy and bustling. A handful of stalls line one side of the historic Devon market town’s wide high street. Asked about the issues that matter to them ahead of Thursday’s election, many of them say they are concerned about the health of the high street itself.
“The rents are high and the rates are high but then I think it is just a dropping off of the high street. It just isn’t how it used to be – it is all on the internet.”
“We have to keep this high street busy, business rates have to come down and parking [which is an] absolute killer. We have a town full of independents [shops]… Honiton has done quite well, but we have to keep independents in this town.”
“I believe you have to give everybody the opportunity to trade and the street traders are actually bringing people in.”
“The biggest problem is that we have all of the supermarkets where there is free parking so people can go… and park for free and do all their shopping in one place. The independent shops don’t get a look in.”