Thursday, 9 February 2012

The High Street

Apparently there are over 14,500 empty shops on the High Streets of Britain's Towns and Cities - that is not counting the charity shops either - who as everyone in business knows - get them rent free in exchange for saving the landlords the cost of paying business rates on empty premises. David Cameron is so concerned about the state of the Britain's High Street that he appointed a TV personality - Mary Portas - to advise him on what to do. Actually - being a bit of TV personality myself I think he would have been better off appointing me - and here is what I would have told him. The High Street - as we know it today - is finished and good riddance to bad rubbish, because that is what most of the chain shops sell - either overpriced or dirt cheap depending on the strategy of the Chains management. Councils have not helped the High street either by making their town centres anti car and thus, not only putting off people coming to shop, but actually driving businesses out of the town centres as well. The old post war idea that the centres of market and county towns would act as shopping hubs is over and government has to accept that the future is Internet shopping or out of town shopping centres where you can park your car and enjoy your day outwithout living in fear of neo fascists parking officials.

So my advice is accept the inevitable and reinvent the High Street. First take all councillors and planners to look at cities where the High Street concept works, somewhere like Bath in fact. Bath works because it is full of beautiful architecture and - now this is the real revolutionary thought - people like to live in beautiful houses and -even more revolutionary - not in ugly badly built modern developments. People also don't mind living in narrow streets in terrace housing providing it is beautiful. Because people like to live in the beautiful houses, which proliferate in Bath, they create a demand for restaurants, bars, boutique shops, delicatessens, decorating shops etc. So the AIM should be to get prosperous people to move back into the city centres from the suburbs. The way to achieve this is firstly to allow offices to be converted back into houses and then to allow new build houses on redundant fifth rate post World War development- oh and don't forget to throw away all the 21st century 'planning guidelines' and go back to 18th century building densities and town planning practices because - actually - that is what people like - and actually -while we are on the point of building what people like - they also like classical architecture.

So get young professionals and the like living in the towns and cities again and a virtuous circle will be formed. They will demand services and shops and new life will be restored to the High Street and, because some of those shops will be extremely high quality people from outside the town/city will be attracted into it to visit, browse and buy. It is not rocket science, it is common sense David Cameron - so next time you want a TV personality to advise please give me a call - the advice will be cheaper and - though say it myself - a hell of a lot better.


  1. DC reads Hannan's blog, does he act on Hannan's advice?

  2. Your advice holds true here in the USA as well.

  3. My parents live in a place called Godalming in Surrey. It is known to us locals as "Sod-all-ming" because, as the name suggests, there is bugger all going on. The shops in the "world acclaimed" High Street are, in order of frequency;
    1) Estate Agents
    2) Charity Shops
    3) Opticians
    4) Banks
    5) Pubs + Restaurants
    Now, I can see the use in Pubs, but as for the others - they are like leeches sucking the life out of the place.

    I agree with what you say about getting people to live in them - but they need to be affordable and to do that I would suggest something radical. A high street entirely populated by loaded, bloated, wankers would be like a living death! It needs young families. I would suggest that the local council is (somehow) given money to buy many of these properties and convert them into smaller flats - so, as you say, people live closer together because that's what they like - and then these could be leased at protected rates to LOCAL PEOPLE (e.g. people born in or very near to the town).

  4. I used to drive buses through Godalming, a place I would gladly have missed out on the way to Guildford. The shopkeepers didn't like the buses coming through as they said it lowered the tone of the place. What they really didn't like was the shoppers going into Guildford.