A REPORT by the Local Data Company and the British Property Federation was issued recently regarding the reduced number of shops on the high streets of British towns.
The report quoted Nottingham as having 29.6% of empty shops. It saw this decline as inevitable, as people’s buying habits continue to change, and concluded that other uses need to be found for town centres.
This makes a mockery of the Hucknall masterplan to develop the Piggins Croft site into a high-street shopping area. This is especially true as the completion for such a project is likely to be 2030, perhaps much later, when the need for high-street shops will have declined much further.
I have criticised the Hucknall town centre plan for many years. My first Letter to the Dispatch, on the subject of pedestrianisation and the inner bypass, was published on November 8 2002.
Another of my Letters, published on Aug 27 2004 and headed ‘Pedestrianisation Will Not Bring Back Shops’, stated “the loss of shops is a national trend” and “it is not realistic to try to turn the clock back”.
I have advocated many times that the pedestrianisation programme and the associated inner bypass be scrapped. I believe this latest report validates all such statements.
It should be recognised that the decline in the number of shops does not mean the town centre per se is in decline. It is simply undergoing a natural change.
Correspondingly, it is time for Ashfield District Council to think again and to assist that change with alternative plans designed to meet the needs of Hucknall in the 2030s, not the 1990s.
My own ideal would include a retail park, including another supermarket, on the Top Wighay site. This would have easy car-access and would serve Hucknall far better than Gedling’s intent to put houses on it.
The town centre should be developed to cater for all the social needs of the community, including churches, entertainment, culture, dining, clubs of all kinds and some shops, for those of us who prefer to walk into town rather than use modern supermarkets.
The only real decline will come about by inactivity, as has been the case for some ten years now, and the insistence on fighting the trends by trying to ‘enhance the shopping experience’.