Our high streets

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2 months ago (6:09 AM)
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Comments:

Sylvia Davis

Initial low rents to encourage entrepreneurs which will develop an independent shopping areas. An agreement that shops are visually attractive.

Talk London

Thanks for the comment Sylvia Davis - I agree that independent shops are an important part of high streets.

I wonder about how you could have shops agree to being "visually attractive", though. Who do you think should decide what is and isn't suitable? Might that restrict some independence and creativity?

- Jon
Talk London Community Manager

tanyad

Well, you could very simply insist that signage comforms to the look-and-feel of the architecture I have seen this in other cities where you dont see hideous luminous "M"s where a McDonalds exists. There should be restrictions on how many of the same chain can exist within a 3 mile radius...that would kill the endless stream of Starbucks!

livehere

Firstly, a total ban on mediocre architecture, such as the shamefully bad proposed Swiss Cottage Living Essentials building. There are so, so many drab, boring high streets across the UK. Secondly, as well as a good range of shops selling essentials, an additional mix of cafes, restaurants, a bar or two, some artisan shops, a bookshop. So visually attractive, with a variety of retailers for all price ranges and with interesting shops as well as ones offering basic essentials, plus places to meet friends, have a coffee, have a meal or snack. And a library and post-office. This means not leaving high streets at the mercy of profiteering property companies, instead the council and communities having some control over the mix of retailers and services.

MsCyprah

"an additional mix of cafes, restaurants, a bar or two, some artisan shops, a bookshop"
We already have these in many places. As for bookshops, that's going backwards in time, because of the the internet onslaught on new ways of reading. We had a great Waterstone's in our area for over 30 years. It closed two years ago, to much local surprise, for lack of custom. Sign of the times, I'm afraid.

MsCyprah

High Streets serve a communal function of allowing interaction on a leisurely and enjoyable level. In days gone by, the high street was a focal point of local interaction because it fulfilled a definite purpose of providing essential goods. that function is now being shared in an even more powerful way by the Internet.

As pessimistic as this sounds, the simple truth is that no matter how wonderful high streets are made in the future, they will always be undermined by internet shopping. That's what's killing the high street, yet that kind of technological progress is inevitable. I guess until the actual function of high streets change for the community, no mount of window dressing will make them more attractive, or save businesses from gradual extinction.

livehere

I definitely don't buy stuff on the internet that I could buy locally, not least because I am so fed up with deliveries problems. If local high streets were to again host the main chains as well as more interesting individual retailers, people might shop locally again instead of all pouring into the centre of London to shop. Local cafes should have free wifi - have you noticed how hard it is to get a seat in central London cafes these days? They are packed with people with laptops, all apparently working. Bookshops could be cafes as well. I don't see why local high streets should not become local community hubs, cool places to be. Maybe they need to be redesigned so they are more like little town squares, with safe play and seating areas, greenery, etc.

MsCyprah

"I don't see why local high streets should not become local community hubs, cool places to be."
I agree with that, but it takes a lot of imagination and creativity to compete with the all the technological distractions available elsewhere.

livehere

It's not that people are distracted by technology - millions of them are shopping in the material world, on Oxford Street and other central shopping areas. Oxford Street is mostly the chains, repeated all the way along.

Talk London

Thanks all for your comments, old and new. Interestingly, recent results from the London Survey (2014) show that despite the rise in online shopping Londoners are still regularly using their local high street and around half of all Londoners feel their local high street is improving.

Some areas where people feel high streets could be further improved are around having more street trees and a range of community activities such as food markets, music, and public art. Perhaps things like this could go some way in helping high streets to become more like the ‘community hubs/cool places to be’ that you mention.

Do you have any examples of art or community activities that have taken place in your local high street or any other thoughts on what makes a good high street? We'd love to hear more of your thoughts.

Wendy
Talk London Community Manager

livehere

Sadly our local 'high street', with its greengrocer and bakery is long gone, and has since been regentrified for the wealthy rather than the locals. Instead we have a major shopping street nearby, with far too many promotional events (ear-shattering amplified bands for eg). It should be remembered that successive governments have insisted on having residential property mixed with retail and offices in high streets, and in town and city centres. Yet not a thought was ever given to those residents' right to enjoy their homes in peace and quiet. Families with young children would have to cope with for example nigh clubs one floor below them, allowed to open to 3am. Have cool places/community hubs, but keep the night time activities away from the mixed residential areas.

Catherine Wright

Lots of you have mentioned that the high street isn’t just about shopping, it is more of a ‘social street’ where people meet in coffee shops and cafes and for many it is also a leisure destination with restaurants, pubs and clubs open in the evening. Livehere raises a good point about how these activities can cause noise and other issues that have an impact on the people living close by.

Do you live on or near a high street and do the benefits of having all the amenities on your doorstep outweigh the disadvantages? We would love to know what you think.

Catherine

Talk London Team

tanyad

But then you have to ask why people move to an area with buzzing bars and nightlife and then complain about the noise like is currently happening in Soho and Shoreditch and with Ministry of Sound! The fact is, if an area or building was there first and you arrive after with your miserable complaints, you should be ignored which is not currently the case. If you want to live somewhere quiet, then move somewhere quiet, but if you want to live in the heart of the city, expect that it will be noisy. I am tired of seeing bars and clubs close down that have been there for ages because new people move in and then complain about the noise; we are running out of places to go fast. Think about how many music venues have died in the last 10 years. Pretty soon we will only be able to work, shop and sleep; you can forgot about fun and dancing!

livehere

I think it is rare for noise complaints to be the cause of a venue closing down. Most of central London is mixed residential/commercial/drinks&fun, and always has been. It is the late night opening, all week long, that is relatively new, and the high number of noisy venues or places that churn out noisy people late at night. I can remember Westminster and Camden councils permitting change of use of one shop after another to clubs, bars and restaurants, in street after street that had previously been flats over shops. Then in droves those clubs, bars and restaurants applied for late-night opening, and were actually granted it. When one venue applied for opening until 3am, the magistrate commented that right under family housing full of young children in Covent Garden was an ideal location for a late night club, just as long as it was not in his peaceful home village. Noise actually damages health, causing the physical changes that lead to heart disease and other health impacts. People need sleep, they have to get up early and go to work, school, etc.

tanyad

Covent Garden is not where you live if you want to raise children?! That is one of the main tourist destinations; if you want a quiet life to raise your kids, then you should move somewhere beneficial for their health like a nice village. Nightlife has to exist somewhere so where would you propose? Or should we all be in bed by 10 and destroy tourism?

livehere

That's fine for the rich. Many people in central London are in social housing, and get very little choice about where they live. Some families have lived in the centre of London for decades, some for generations. They were not even consulted about changing their local high streets and communities into all-night boozing zones. It is the 'fun' businesses that chose to move into areas that were not suitable, areas that were residential with shops and offices, community centres, a few interesting pubs and a reasonable number of restaurants. Local communities were failed by the local authorities, such as Camden and Westminster. Anybody who lives in these locations and leads a normal working life needs quiet in the evenings to recover from work, and quiet at night to sleep. If you want to evacuate working people from central London, replacing them with very rich people who do not need day jobs so do not need to sleep at night, then you have to find the funding for rehousing thousands of people. You would probably have build homes for them in quiet areas. And also put up the central London wages substantially, so that the exported essential workers can afford the fares to get in to work.

livehere

Actually the sensible thing to do, instead of expensive ring roads and tunnels, would be to build a few large dedicated entertainment zones away from all residential properties, with fast transport from central London and to outlying 'burbs. They could include 'sleeping pod' developments for the revellers to use instead of travelling home drunk, plenty of fooderies and many first aid drunk tanks.

tanyad

Are you going to be paying for the lifting and shifting of all the bars, clubs and restaurants that exist around Covent Garden, Soho, West End????

livehere

Don't forget that for years and years successive governments maintained a strong policy of making sure that people live in town and city centres. Conversion of offices etc above retail units into residential accommodation was strongly promoted, including family housing. There was some nonsense idea that you have to have people living in these night life areas to prevent them from becoming 'dead'. It was to keep them 'vibrant' and supposedly made them safer. Maybe there was a daft hypothesis that safety is increased by diluting the numbers of nightlifers with residents would reduce the incidence of violent crime. Whatever. So you cannot blame people for living in these areas - this is where the housing is.

fcd2

Yes - but so many high streets in London in particular in Westminster and Kensington are blighted by the illegal roar of so-called 'super cars' imitating a grand prix so those quite outweigh the benefits.

sue

It is not the roar of supercars on Kensington High Street that blights it but the slow moving congestion exacerbated by the cycle parking areas down the centre, and the illegal and dangerous cycling that causes all the traffic to go at a snail´s pace. Add to that the ugly shops that the Council allows to open there, the ridiculous greedy rents demanded by the landlords which increases the turnover and the disgusting chewing gum all over the main streets which the Council does nothing about. I was brought up in this area and it bears no relation to the beautiful place it was 25 years ago. A lazy and incompetent Council is the prime offender in my view.

Terry Vaughan

An attractive town centre has as few motor vehicles as possible. They poison the air and make the street noisy and dangerous. With fewer cars, the bikes wouldn't be held up so much. What do you want - more people on bikes or more motor traffic?

Frenske

I concur on that. I prefer shopping in the center of Kingston-upon-Thames versus Wimbledon or Regen street or Bond street. It has a large pedestrians-only area with a nice food market.

tanyad

Said by someone who lives close to a town centre, I bet. Pro-bike does not have to equal anti-car; each has a necessity and purpose. Get over the notion that roads are there for the use of one group over another; they are there for all to share.

Terry Vaughan

The consultation is about making high streets more attractive. Cars go against that. We need parking nearby, and only allow motors in for access, 10 mph speed limit and no through traffic. When you get out of your car, you'll like it too.

tanyad

I use all forms of transport: bike, bus, tube, car, feet. Like I said, they all have a time and place but you will have to pry my car keys out of my cold dead hands.

tanyad

Bottom line is that there are plenty of people like me who would rather drive somewhere that I can go to a variety of shops and stack up on bags of stuff on less regular trips: I probably go out once a month to once every 6 weeks where I will stock on groceries, gardening stuff, home stuff, clothes etc and as soon as a town takes that away from me, I just take my business to another town or shop on the net and so the town centre dies. You can see it happening now. So you can keep fighting a losing battle with the motorist or make city centres friendly for all.

livehere

But do you have to drive a car that belches out toxic air pollution?

tanyad

Seriously, what planet are you living on??? This is what I bought last weekend on a single shopping trip: £100 of groceries from Sainsburys, £30 quid of miscellaneous items from M&S, 50litres of soil, 3 pot plants and other miscellaneous gardening items...exactly how do you propose I carry this all home??? Sorry, but I do not own a donkey and so a car will have to do! You must live in central London walking distance to everything and probably don't have a garden which is one of the perks of living in the outer burbs of London so you have no appreciation for how a lot of people do rely on their cars to ferry their families around and organise their lives. I tell you what, borrow someone's kids for a day, one in a pram, go to a grocery store, stock up on a weeks worth of items and then try get it all home on public transport! And when I go out for the evening, I drive out, pick up all my friends along the way which is a nice way to start the evening and then late at night when there is no public transport, especially in the middle of winter, I get everyone home warm and safely. You seem like you have no enjoyment in your life and seem intent on depriving others of anything that makes life more enjoyable. Nice. If you are willing to buy me an electric car, I will happily give up my belcher.

pengista

Do we need high streets, as opposed to retail/social zones? I'm not convinced.

I would like somewhere local to see friends, eat/drink, buy essentials, all without having to get in a car. If there is some entertainment & arts, perhaps some good quality crafts/artisan products and education, I'd happily explore all those. I suppose, since we're all wandering around all these places you may want to add the odd shoe shop and small DIY store, what the hell. Can we have all this in a pedestrians-only garden park?

I actually live on Penge High Street (not through choice), and it's a constant, horrible battle against early-morning delivery noise, fast-food stench and litter. I do like being able to pop out of my flat and buy some washing-up gloves, but I'd much rather live away from it.

livehere

I agree with Sue, fcd2 and pengista. Especially about those supercars with bespoke exhausts and boomboxes roaring.
There seem to be hundreds of dreary high streets in London and all round the UK, with abysmal architecture, just a strip of ugly buildings with shops below, along a busy dusty noisy road. The high streets should be relocated, away from the main road on the other side of the dreary buildings, with greens and seating and play areas, outdoor exercise machines like those in China. It would take some judicious knocking down of properties and redesigning, but should be done.

BOPAMAMIE

We are very good at boasting about the Victorian legacy of infrastructure from which we still benefit, since when having gone in to two world wars and countless others, it would seem nothing much else is affordable. We do need pedestrian areas very badly but that would involve putting traffic into tunnels or overhead bridges. I think if we are to sustain this city for the future such projects are vital. I have watched the crossrail works with interest, highly disruptive but hopefully a huge boost for London. I am amazed that people object to the sewage works planned in the Fulham area, it seems that every time you cross a bridge anywhere from Richmond downstream, another block of 'luxury' flats has gone up and quite where is the 'waste' going? It would be nice to think that mere mortals could live in places with views over the river and walkways and open air cafes but that would seem to be for foreigners who won't even live in them. Just as well given the sewage situation. I wonder if all these people from the other side of the world know about the infrastructure in general and the way millions of Londoners actually live.

davel

I live near Mare Street in Hackney.
The Northern part ("Narrow Way"), which has become pedestrian-and-bicycle-only recently is improving,
becoming more sociable and more like a place where people want to be.
The main part is a soulless urban motorway, totally blighted by cars and pollution.

I saw the same when I lived in Cardiff:
they pedestrianised the main street and suddenly it was a lot nicer.

Everything I have seen tells me that making high streets more pedestrian-friendly makes them better.
While removing motor traffic from every high street may be impractical,
there's no reason why many high streets can't ban motor traffic for part of the day, for instance.

Trobinson

If I cant park for free close to the shops I don't go their and nothing else would attract me. Shame because I prefer to use a small independant butcher and proper bakers.

davel

Even if the shops are within walking distance of your home?

Trobinson

Hate walking, because I have a disability, so walking any distance is a painful option. Not all town centre car parks are free to blue badge holders and I haver received considerable verbal abuse for parking on a yellow line from members of the public (where safe and permitted to do so with a Blue Badge). I don't have any decent shops within a mile of my home. Off licences and aTesco express in an ex pub don't count, Apart from which I hate carrying shopping.

tanyad

yes Dave, even those of us in London dont live within walking distance of shops, or good ones. Close to me I have a Halfords, an Indian restaurant and a second hand jeweller...not very useful for day to day living so I would rather get in my car, drive somewhere and spend hours browsing different stores and come back with a car load of groceries and garden-ware otherwise its single trips out to collect each individual item as I am but one person with 2 hands.

BOPAMAMIE

I think it was Sue who spoke of the stench of fast food shops and smell of litter - that is something that could, and should, be controlled. Unfire a few health and safety inspectors and up and man the fines and penalties, should solve that. In fact rather than fines, the offenders of litter-throwing should be made to pick it up, an hour per piece of litter? Much more effective I think.

Bob1000

Local authorites (in London, the Boroughs) working with residents and businesses are best placed to determine appropriate startegies for each area. Government interventions, such as the ludicrous changes to permitted developemnt rights, make it a lot harder for suitable strategies and policies to be agreed and implemented.

livehere

The new 'power in the hands of local people' in the shape of local forums seems to often mean business interests running the show with little representation of residents' interests.

tanyad

Ha ha ha ha, did someone actually say that??? Have you seen what councils have done to our town centres??? Yes, they have killed them slowly with careless planning and allowing big companies to run amock.

pengista

So, not a danger to life, limb or lung. Not an offence to nose, ear or eye. That's a good starting point (largely failed).

Next: decent shops. I'm frequently stunned by how egregiously bad local shops are. If they were animals the council would be sent in to rescue them. Nasty shop windows, lame product ranges, surly/dim-witted staff. Non-existent marketing (or indeed, understanding of their target audience).

I read in the news somewhere some council-person bemoaning the rise of the gambling and loan shops in their area, saying they had no control over it, wasn't it a shame. This made me very angry, because the council could be doing PLENTY to bring great businesses to their area, through outreach, special deals, centralised high-quality marketing, events. But they don't, because they haven't a clue themselves - and they won't hire anyone who has.

smithpot

There are too many betting shops and venues with late alcohol licenses.

nmayo

The key to a successful high street is: greenery greenery and greenery. As others note, high quality traditional architecture is also central to creating an ambience where consumers enjoy hanging out. These, together with traditional shop fronts with wooden frames and stall risers (no neon or plastic) selling goods and services that consumers would like it buy and unpolluted air to breathe.
All pretty obvious really.

Marion Garner-Patel

No cars. shops are places for people to meet. Many use them to go to chat, buying something is of secondary importance. Individual shops that are more interesting - there are too many shops of the same.

Tonnerre

Je suis d’accord que les rues sont un élément clé dans la vie de la communauté et qu’on devrait essayer de les faire plus animées. Mais ce que je trouve est que les rues à Londres sont souvent très sale – quand on se promène dans la rue, on voit des papiers, des emballages, des bouteilles et tous type d’ordures ménagère sur le trottoir. De nos jours, le municipalité ne débarrasse plus les poubelles. Ils laissent que les poubelles se débordent. Souvent ils contient de la nourriture at si personne ne la ramasse les renards la ravage pendant la nuit et le lendemain la rue a l’apparence d’un théâtre de guerre.

livehere

Là où je vis la rue commerçante principale est nettoyé horaire , nuit et jour , en utilisant 90 décibels machines diesel qui réveillent les résidents jusqu'à. Sorry, using Google translate.

Where I live the main shopping street is cleaned hourly, night and day, using 90 decibel diesel machines that wake residents up.

Talk London

Hi Tonnerre, and all,

Just providing a translation of the above comment:

"I agree that the streets are a key element in the life of the community and we should try to make them more lively. But what I find is that the streets in London are often very dirty - when you walk in the street , we see papers, packaging , bottles and all types of household garbage on the sidewalk. Today, the municipality removes more garbage cans. They leave that trash is overflowing. It often contains food and if no one picks it up the foxes eat it during the night and the next day the street has the appearance of a theater of war ."

Hope that's helpful.

Wendy
Talk London Community Manager

livehere

Unless you live on or near a major 'world class' shopping destination. Then the streets are cleaned day and night, and residents are woken up hourly every night by the 85decibel cleaning machines.

BOPAMAMIE

Bonjour Tonnerre,

You are absolutely correct, there was a campaign against litter years ago which I think was quite successful and it should be implemented again. I was standing at a bus stop in Fulham the other day when someone threw a plastic bottle out of the window two floors above!

Someone recently returned from a holiday in Cape Town and said she could not get over how clean it was and try as they did, never saw any litter whilst there.

There is so much fast food about that both the businesses and the customers should be aware that penalties WILL be laid against them if they don't either put it in the, admittedly somewhat absent 'poubelles' but were they not removed when we had IRA bombs in London - perhaps not all have been replaced.

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