I was flabbergasted to read in this week’s Maidenhead Advertiser that £400k worse of public money was going to be spent on changing the paving in the night street. Why? What for? So utilities came come and dig it up and replace it by Tarmac?
So the pavement can look good for the fewer shoppers? Wouldn’t this money be better spent in free parking, running more regular events in the high street to attract more shoppers or possibly even subsidise rent so smaller retailers can come to the high street? You could agree a more affordable rent for a new retailer based on turnover, the £400k could go toward paying landlords the difference.
I wonder what the government appointed celebrity would think of this new pavement. Her Portas pilots were only given £100k, with £400k, she would surely work miracles.
Let’s make the High Street a destination worse going. I believe moving the market in the High Street was a good start but having other shops than coffee bars, nail bars, phone shops and charity shops would be another great step. Smaller independent retailers would bring choice and diversity that large national multi retailers will not bring.
In the same way developers are forced to include social housing, isn’t it time for town centre developers to be made to keep subsidised shops for smaller retailers? i.e. instead of subsidising the anchor store, subsidise smaller retailers to come and set up. The likelihood is that the smaller retailer will stay longer than the big multi retailers ran from head office by bean counters who could not care less for what closed shops do to people and communities. I would take the games shop in the Nicholson centre as example, all the games multi retailers are gone, the small independent is still here.
I believe this is the idea Mr Bishop had when creating the Bishop Centre. Creating a place where smaller retailer could have a go without massive costs. The formula worked well until the big boys got hold of it and sneakily applied for planning permission for a small food shop on the site. When this was granted, while local residents (I am one of them) and planning councillors sleepwalked into this one, it left the door open to what has happened there. Yet another impersonal shopping centre full of national retailers.
I am glad to see that people have finally woken up to the supermarketisation of the town. I wish good luck to the Save the Golden Harp campaign and I sincerely hope they will have better luck than our Save the Bishop Centre campaign had. As we know now with the horse meat scandal, supermarkets are not so caring of where their goods comes from, providing they can sell it cheap and make profit. Time to keep trade local and go back to shop in local independent shops I think. But to do this we need to help independent shops and probably less money spent on totally superfluous projects.