Berkhamsted and District Chamber of Commerce is seeking your opinions and suggestions!
A recently published, government sponsored report has estimated that nationally there are twice as many shops as we need. A combination of internet shopping and out-of-town retail centres is leading to shop closures in town centres and high streets across the country. Berkhamsted High Street is relatively well placed at the moment as very few sites are vacant, but we do have some unfilled properties and the High Street is increasingly being used by charity shops and similar activities. The signs are that over the coming months and years the problem will get worse rather than better.
The High Street as a retail centre will only be viable if there are a sufficient number of visitors – the footfall. The Berkhamsted and District Chamber of Commerce would like to ask its membership what they would like to see done increase this. There are three ways we can do this: we can consider changing the nature of the high street, reducing its dependence on retail to generate footfall; we can campaign to reduce costs such as business rates and rents – this will require co-ordinated action nationally as far as the rates are concerned as these are set by central government; and we can try and stimulate local business.
1. Nature of High Street
There are a number of options:
- Continue as we are;
- Encourage non-retail uses such as work hubs, restaurants, professional companies, gyms, hairdressers or meeting places of various kinds;
- Allow more residential use such as flats above shops, or change completely to residential for some sites, either across the town centre or at the edges of the town centre.
- Would you support a campaign to reduce business rates?
- Should the Chamber identify local landlords and rents charged with a view to the Chamber lobbying for reduced rents?
3. Generation of Business
- Would you support an active Business to Business discount offer for Chamber members?
- Would you support a Discount Card for the general population that lives in Berkhamsted?
- Should the Chamber sponsor (or provide support for) the use of social media among members?
- Should the Chamber make more use of the local press to promote retail in the town?
- Should the Chamber run a market stall in the High Street asking passers-by what features they would like to see and what would attract them to visit the High Street more often?
If you have any views on these questions let the Chamber know. The Chamber is considering asking the town planners at Dacorum Borough Council to come and speak to a breakfast meeting about what they are doing to provide more flexibility in allowing different uses of town centre shops that might fall vacant. They may also have a “brainstorming session” with members.