We need a proactive strategy and incentives to revive High Street

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THE RECENT Dispatch front-page story, ’Down The Drain’, supports the widely-held opinion that Ashfield District Council regards Hucknall as a smaller priority than Kirkby and Sutton.

The Portas Plus initiative advocates the regeneration of community high streets, with just one of its proposals in favour of free parking.

Coun John Wilmott (Lab), of Hucknall, was quoted in the Dispatch article as saying Sutton and Kirkby were able to make applications for funding under the Portas initiative because they had the ‘town teams’ established, whereas Hucknall did not.

Coun Wilmott was elected to represent Hucknall North and is now Ashfield Council’s deputy leader. The obvious question is, therefore, why did Kirkby and Sutton have the necessary resources to submit an application for the Portas funding when Hucknall did not?

The comments in the article of our Hucknall town-centre manager, Mark Armstrong, were even more pathetic.

Re-launching Hucknall’s once-thriving market on a one-day-per-week basis will never, on its own, revitalise the town. The market was halved in size by the revamp of the area outside the library a few years ago and has never been the same since.

If Mr Armstrong believes that the removal of empty stalls on the Friday market will fool Hucknall people into thinking that the town is recovering, then he is, at best, naive and, at worst, completely deranged. The suggestion that new businesses should start with a one-day-per-week market-stall is, quite simply, idiotic.

Two of the main reasons that new businesses are disinclined to open on High Street are the prohibitive non-domestic rate levied by Ashfield Council and rents charged by private landlords and Ashfield Council.

Mr Armstrong also says that regarding the part-pedestrianisation of High Street, “some businesses were waiting to see what will happen”. This suggests a total lack of realistic town-planning, market research and incentives to create new small businesses and jobs. We desperately need a proactive strategy if we want to preserve our High Street.

Hucknall does not need “high-quality office-accommodation” on Vine Terrace. What it does need are high-quality retail outlets on High Street.

With seemingly indifferent and ineffective people such as Coun Wilmott and Mr Armstrong ‘in charge’ of Hucknall’s destiny, the town will continue to slip into terminal decline.

When High Street shops are closing left, right and centre, Ashfield Council’s reaction was to double the parking charges for shoppers. If anybody can understand the logic behind this, I would be very interested to hear from them.

CHRIS THORNE,

Hucknall. (Address supplied).