What is the Purpose of Cricklade High Street?
The state of High Streets up and down the country is a huge cause of concern for the government. This was the case prior to Covid -19 pandemic, with the government commissioning several reviews. Since then, lockdown has worsened this picture considerably and accelerated trends already in evidence, such as the switch to online shopping. Added to that, is the growth in home working – some of which is likely to become permanent. The genie is well and truly out of the bottle and cannot be put back. So, what next for the High Street? And what does this mean for Cricklade?
With these questions in mind, one of CDF’s directors recently tuned into a webinar: “Re-imagining our High Streets”. There were several interesting speakers and plenty of ideas. It was thought that High Streets of the future are more likely to be a mix of retail and residential; a place to shop, work and live more sustainably, but above all, a social space for people to come together and congregate. High Streets should be designed to encourage social interaction and be pleasant to spend time in. Traffic should become subservient to people, wider pavements created to provide more space for seating and bike stands, and be dressed with attractive flower displays.
Well, so far so good. Cricklade ticks quite a few of those boxes already – although there is always room for improvement. Our High Street is a commercial and residential mix, contains an abundance of greenery, bike stands, seating, an excellent Heritage Trail, and of course, a very friendly community. The pandemic has thrown into sharp relief the importance of the High Street businesses and its services (including Culverhay Stores). Where would we have been without them? Given their importance, can we say it is inevitable that they will be lost to the trends of online shopping? If not, what can we do to ensure the High Street remains as vibrant as it is today?
The seminar went on to say that solutions to this question will differ by town. Every town is different and a ‘one size fits all’ approach will not work. To succeed, the High Street should reflect the history and features valued by community it serves. In short, a town needs to develop a sense of place. And to do that, it needs to define the purpose of its High Street – and that purpose needs to come from the community.
So, at some point in the not too distant future when life has settled down a little, we will be carrying out both resident and business surveys to find out what you think about our High Street. But if you cannot wait until then, please feel free to let us know your views now on why you think Cricklade High Street should exist. If you can help us answer this question, it might help us to save our High Street.