Why does Cricklade need a High Street Strategy?
Cricklade Development Foundation (the Society) has set up a working group to help formulate a High Street Strategy for Cricklade, with the aim of securing the vibrancy and future of the High Street businesses. Joining us on this group will be representatives of Cricklade Town Council, who have confirmed their support for this initiative.
But why do we need a High Street Strategy? On the face of it, Cricklade’s High Street appears to be well supported. It sustains convenience stores, specialist shops, two quality butchers’ (quite unusual in a town of our size), convenience stores and a range of commercial and health services such as a dentist, optician and a dentist. All in all, everything a small town would want for day to day living. But as we know, High Streets up and down the country are facing challenging times. Our shopping habits have changed, Internet shopping has taken off and this has placed an enormous pressure on bricks and mortar businesses. But despite these pressures, Cricklade’s local economy appears remarkably resilient. Vacancy rates remain stubbornly low – and the few premises that are vacant are mostly vacant for reasons other than a lack of available tenants. So why are we concerned?
Since the formation of the Society a few years ago, it has become increasingly clear that vacant commercial premises are vulnerable to change of use planning applications. This is because landlords can usually attract higher sale prices for residential than commercial properties. On a personal level, you can’t blame landlords for trying to do this. Like everyone else, they have their financial futures to think of especially as the outlook for the commercial sector looks uncertain. But, if they get their way, and our High Street is developed in line with their needs as opposed to those of local residents, in 10 years’ time, Cricklade’s High Street could look a shadow of what it is today.
Over the years, Cricklade has lost several commercial premises this way. This “drip drip” effect has left us with a core offering which still supports the requirements of local residents. Indeed, Cricklade is classified as a Service Centre for the area. So why does it matter now? Well, at some point, we will reach a tipping point. When that point is reached, the loss of one more shop could seriously undermine the viability of the rest. Fewer shops and services, means fewer visitors to the High Street – and a domino effect on the remaining High Street businesses could ensue.
Complacency will be our greatest enemy, so we need to act now – hence the reason for setting up of the High Street Strategy group. We expect to kick off with our first meeting before Christmas. We will keep you in the loop, keep you updated on progress and involve you along the way. So, watch this space!