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Civic Voice Live - 17 August - 1pm - Take action for our high streets
Posted: 17 August 2011 11:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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PeterB is right that there’s a lot going on - it is really down to civic societies to tell us what is the most important.  Judging by the number of responses we have received so far from local groups on the Mary Portas review you certainly think this is one that matters.  But what can we bring to the table that’s distinctive - Peter is right that there are lots of other voices.  This is where the knowledge and experience of what is really happening on the ground is so important and why the input of civic societies to what we do matters so much.

 
 
Posted: 17 August 2011 11:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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Chris raises an important issue about how we help to ensure a diversity of shops in the high street.  There are currently very few planning safeguards to achieve this.  There is talk however of what planning could do in setting out expectations for the range and diversity of shops in an area and so it could do more and we could lobby for that.  We are currently lobbying to plug the loopholes which are causing problems - such as the lack of planning controls over converting banks to betting shops - so it will require a big swing to increase planning controls.  But maybe this is an area where planning will only be a bit player and there are other things we need - is it more about business rates? or maybe the quality of the streets and public spaces? or maybe transport and access?

 
 
Posted: 17 August 2011 11:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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Writing here as the former Chairman of the Sydenham Society, London SE26, which is half inner-city, half suburban, I would say the main problem is the lack of cohesion among local retailers - possibly the lack of cohesion among different groups living in the area.  In spoit of having a large Sainsbury’s in the area, our High Street survives, and continues to have independent food shops, with two contrasting ones opening recently.  The first is a small Turkish run supermarket, expanding from another nearby centre, the other an up market fishmonger & butcher, run by the son of long established independent greengrocers.  We also have a number of successful and useful pound shops - as well as the to-be-expected charity shops, book makers, small branches of a few multiples, and some empty premises.  The clientele is a mixture of the less well off, without cars, commuters going into or returning from central London, independent professionals working from home, and parents.  As well as Turks, there are sizable Afro-Carribean, Tamil and East European populations in the area.

So economically, it’s not too bad - uses are shifting, e.g. from selling goods to selling time and space to hang out - e.g. by more up-market caf├ęs, but also nail-bars.  Bu the changes in demographics and economics mean that the sorts of retailers who used to form the backbone of the local traders association are now a small minority, and reaching the new-comers is difficult.

 
 
Posted: 17 August 2011 11:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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I do not want my post to be regarded as a “negative”, but my point is that many organisations have talked about this for the past ten years (longer in some places) and yet, year after year, we see yet another “campaign to save the high street” and yet, we are still in the same position with people trying to work out what we do. The problems with our high streets in this country are obvious - but the real solution of getting people to work together for the greater good of society (not themselves) is the challenge that all previous government’s have faced. The American Main Street model looks really succesful and I could see an organistion such a Civic Voice taking this forward (it would open your audience up much wider).
i really believe we need a different model to make the high street a success again, yet, I am not expecting anything special from the Portas Review - more of the same in the other reports that have come forward over the pat ten years.
We need a new way of working and talking! Is Civic Voice the answer? who knows!

 
 
Posted: 17 August 2011 11:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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I fear the new draft national planning policy framework makes the situation worse for Marple and elsewhere - with a default answer to any development being “yes”.  As always with planning the most important thing is to have strong Local Plan (LDF) policies and the new neighbourhood planning provisions could also help.  If the Marple scheme cuts across the core strategy and the council’s officers agree then it will be an uphill struggle to overturn them on appeal - and there is no doubt gathering public support does help

 
 
Posted: 17 August 2011 11:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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I agree with PeterB

We hear the same old problems of the high street regurgitated every few years. What we need is a drastic change - people will only visit a high street if it has something to offer. And I mean much more than groceries - it needs to be an experience. Look at the The People’s Shop in Camden! What a success story! I don’t want to be accused of being political…. but very Big Society!

 
 
Posted: 17 August 2011 11:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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Can I put in a word of heritage and the historic character of many High Streets? This includes not just the buildings, and shops, but the public space and road as well. I feel its often the heritage that makes one town centre different to another. English Heritage has suggested a variety of ways that local residents can become involved as part of their Save Our Streets campaign. See http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/caring/save-our-streets/ . Perhaps there are some practical actions that Civic Societies can take here?

Full disclosure: I work for English Heritage, but not the section responsible for the campaign. My comments are my own thoughts, not EH’s.

 
 
Posted: 17 August 2011 11:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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Sydenham’s expereince points to the importance of retailers and local businesses working well together, just as local people work through civic societies and other groups.  Civic societies can help with this and many have a good relationship with their local chamber of commerce or other local business group.  Many local business people are also on civic societies and there is often a very shared agenda around the high street.  I know one example where the civic society and local chamber of commerce are jointly lobbying the council on priorities.

 
 
Posted: 17 August 2011 11:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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PeterB is putting out a good challenge - what do others think?  How can we rethink our approach?

 
 
Posted: 17 August 2011 11:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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There’s a lot of interest in things like the People’s Supermarket, Slow Food and the anti clone town movement - is this the direction to go?

 
 
Posted: 17 August 2011 11:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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Marple again - Is there anything more we can do and can we have any effect?? I tend to agree with Sarah that only government action can really bring about any change and only they can ‘persuade’ Tesco and the big big four to change their behaviour.

We are well organised in our campaign and doing all we can, lobbying, expert legal advice etc but can changes in planning law and the localism bill really help against the mega rich and powerful supermarkets?

 
 
Posted: 17 August 2011 11:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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As we know there are dozens of civic societies working on street clutter and the quality of the street and public spaces - find out the latest on the Street Pride campaign here http://www.civicvoice.org.uk/campaigns/street-pride/.  How important is this, as Edfmund suggests, to turning things around?

 
 
Posted: 17 August 2011 11:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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Edward or are you Simon Thurley in disguise!

I despair with English Heritage - I have never come across this document/resource yet our own group have worked to protect our high street from clone town status in Derbyshire for mnay years.

This is a problem I see with ENglish Heritage. You have the experts all talking to each other, but you need to be pushing this resource out to people like me!

Nonetheless this looks a very useful document. Perhaps English Heritage can give copies to each civic society?

 
 
Posted: 17 August 2011 11:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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Tony

You are very good with the “rhetorical questions” - if civic groups such as mine in Derbyshire wanted Civic Voice to do more on High streets, what can we do i.e. if we wanted a workshop on “saving the high street” or a visit to a town that is not a “clone town”

Thanks

 
 
Posted: 17 August 2011 11:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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There is now a growing political debate about the power of the “big” supermarkets which wasn’t there before.  Is this the most important issue?  If we tackled the problems caused by large out of town supermarkets would our high streets all come to life?  And what planning powers would help - if the Local Plan has been adopted and doesn’t allow for out of town retail then is it really still getting through?  Is it more that councils have been too slow getting their plans completed?

 
 
   
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