Save our streets
The high street is so much more than a shopping destination. It is also a focal point for communities and an area for enjoying leisure pursuits such as dining, cinema trips and visits to the theatre. Meeting friends in a coffee shop or visiting the library, there are many reasons for people to head to the centre of a town or city. What makes a high street great though? How do we judge whether a town centre works well or could do better.
Chain stores are essential but their presence does make towns and cities look boring in that you could be anywhere because they are so uniform. A high street that has a good combination of chain stores and smaller independent shops is a much more attractive sight and gives the shopper a broader range of products to choose from. Supporting independent shops also benefits the local economy. For a good range of independent shops, take a trip to Market Harborough. For more information, visit http://www.marketharborough.com/
Improving our local high streets could involve seeing it as more of a community hub offering a wide range of services. People surveyed about town centres seem to agree that there should be more trees and greenery, pedestrianised areas with seating and play areas. People want to see a variety of shops with varying products and catering to all budgets, not just rows and rows of pound stores. Coffee shops, free wifi and public services like libraries and post offices also feature highly on the list.
Cultural events bring more people into an area and so a high street that sees markets, food markets, street performances and live music will be a more attractive and exciting place to spend time. Noise can sometimes be an issue though and may be putting off local councils from organising events. For many years now, in an attempt to revitalise town centres, residential housing has been built alongside previously commercial property. In some cities this has put restrictions on entertainment venues such as nightclubs.
Pedestrianisation is a popular idea as long as there is sound infrastructure to transport visitors into the centre. Vehicles cause noise and pollution and so more people should be encouraged to park and ride, cycle or even walk into the area. Councils also need to become much more involved in the choice of retail outlets that are allowed to set up in their town. People generally tend to agree that pound shops and betting shops feature too highly on our high streets and are viewed as lowering the tone of an area. Too many of one type of store is not healthy for a high street or a consumer. A high street should contain something for everyone in a community and not just focus on gambling and drinking.
There are some fantastic examples of high streets that are booming and local councils working on long-term plans to continue the improvements and progress that have been made. Online shopping has led to a decline in footfall on our British high streets but if we have well-rounded centres with lots of places to eat, drink, be entertained and use good services then the high street should live on.