All across the UK shops are closing and being boarded up. We’re hearing tales of the high street dying on its feet.
We’re lucky in Berkhamsted that, so far, most of the high street has survived intact. But that doesn’t mean we should be complacent.
It’s undeniable that shopping habits are changing. Yes, we love our high street, but it’s so easy to shop from the comfort of our sofa – and so we do, in our droves.
In a recent report by The Town Centres Expert Panel, Sir John Timpson, Chairman of Timpsons, said that the UK has ‘about twice the number of shops we need’. And even though the Government has promised to spend £675 million on a Future High Street Fund and Town Centre Taskforce, it’s only likely to get worse.
The latest thinking is that we should try and change the look and focus of the high street – to have a rethink about what people really want as the hub of their town these days.
With that in mind, a group from the Berkhamsted District Chamber of Commerce (BDCC) have started to consider the options for Berkhamsted in the future.
‘We have spoken to Dacorum Borough Council and are due to have a meeting to discuss the options, going forward,’ says town councillor and BDCC member Ian Reay. ‘The high street isn’t doing too badly at the moment, but applications for rent are down, and there are already some sites which are simply sitting empty.’
There’s a long way to go and lots of brainstorming to be done, but the current thinking is that, if retail sites close – particularly on the outskirts of the town – it should be easier for them to change use, for example to residential. But there are many more options to explore.
‘The main aim is to increase footfall,’ says Ian. ‘The twice-weekly market helps enormously, but we need to look at other ways of getting people to come into town and spend time and money there.’