Our High Street is Doomed Unless We Take Action Now

High Streets as we know them, have been under threat for a considerable time, with the rising threat that the take-up of online shopping brings to many High Street businesses, whom in turn, cite that it is an uncompetitive market for them to compete with.

But why do businesses and local authorities ignore the customers in front of them? The grey pound is still awash in our High Street but seems to be given very little attention.

Our High Streets need to be ready for the challenges faced by our aging population. We shouldn’t feel ashamed of adaptation but embrace the changes needed. Why shouldn’t we adapt? When we have children we adapt our homes, the soft door closers, making sure that dangers in the kitchen are kept away from curious little fingers and of course that annoying stairgate that we often unsuccessfully hurdle. Making things safe in our homes is a key consideration before welcoming our little ones into the world.

Our High Streets are no different. We need to invest (both time and money) in these spaces to make them safe for our aging population.

Residents have complained (rightly so) about the uneven paving slabs, the narrow pavements which make it a challenge for those in mobility scooters, and the feeling of vulnerability with the lack of visible police presence and no CCTV. The Council is failing to address these key issues and in turn, neglecting not just its residents but the business owners. Making our town a welcoming place for all is so much more important than I think is being currently considered.

Of course, no doubt we will hear all the reasons why none of this can be done (as often we do) – with one overarching ‘excuse’ that is consistently ‘rolled out’ – lack of resources, which often implies MONEY!

In recent weeks, I have been in contact with the Portfolio Holder at Rochford District Council to ask why the Council has not put a bid in for the leveling up fund round 2. As usual, we get the ‘resource’ excuse! I’m honestly aghast that so many funding opportunities are being blatantly missed at Rochford District Council and things need to change. The financial pressures faced by Local Authorities are undeniable, but the burden is on the council’s administration to find creative solutions to the conundrum that they face otherwise our District will be left far, far behind and our High Streets will be doomed.

About the author James Newport

Essex County Councillor for Rayleigh North, Rochford District Councillor for Downhall & Rawreth and Rayleigh Town Councillor for Sweyne.

  • It is interesting that you feel that high streets don’t cater for the “Grey Pound”, but in my view they don’t cater for anyone of working age. I actually now work from home – in Rayleigh – but finish work at around 4:30pm. By the time I get to the high street after work, most businesses are closed or closing. No wonder the internet and out of town shopping centres are winning the battle for customers.
    I appreciate it is difficult for stores to provide staff for evening opening, but it doesn’t seem to worry Lakeside or Sainsbury’s.
    Maybe there is a fear that people won’t visit the high street if only one or two shops are open, and it would require a coordinated action to attract customers.
    I’m genuinely interested in why we have this model of closing at 5pm, and if there was anything that the local council could do to maybe facilitate extended opening.

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