Essex Chronicle asks: Can the reduction in High Street footfall be reversed?

March 6, 2019 2:58 PM
By Karen Chilvers in Essex Chronicle Series

High streetPeople buy benefits and to create a destination is to provide just that. High streets that survive offer entertainment, café society and green spaces to enjoy alongside retail. It's not enough to stick shops in a row and cross fingers - a suitable infrastructure must support access, encourage footfall flow and provide ambience.

A fundamental issue for many towns is that they were originally created in a bygone era - Brentwood a prime example as a medieval town that has had bits added over 800+ years. Often intrinsic to charm and ambience and with care, can fuse to provide a must-visit place although, to survive, a perspective with an overarching vision for a town or city is needed to celebrate the old within the modern world and to futureproof it. A bold step was taken by the private sector in Chelmsford to create 'Bond Street' and a "destination" was born with distinct, high-class branding that tells people that this is "the place to be". The public sector needs to follow suit.

Car, cycle, pedestrian and mobility access must all be simple so to funnel customers in. Lakeside was a revolution when it opened in 1990 and it was ground-breaking in its customer-centric design that paved the way from car, coach, bus and, later, train, in to its malls. 29 years later, maybe it's taken for granted but for those that remember it opening, it was utopian at the time and more lessons should have been learned.

Financially, and in a quicker win for struggling businesses that suffer from high business rates imposed, the Liberal Democrats have a policy to abolish the broken business rates system and replace it with a Commercial Landowner Levy in a plan where 93% of businesses would pay less, and it's being championed right now by our leader Sir Vince Cable MP.

(Article written for Essex Chronicle by Cllr Karen Chilvers, Brentwood)