High streets ahead: Councils need to raise their game and give retail a hand

Shopping malls are good for chain stores but useless for specialist outlets

Share

Many people are keen to read the last rites to the British high street, which is always said to be in its death throes, even if – like Charles II – it seems to take “an unconscionable time  a-dying”. The rise of the car delivered the first blow decades ago. Once most people didn’t have to walk to the shops, a question mark was always going to hang over the little “parade” down the road. Malls and internet shopping have stuck the dagger in further.

The latest would-be funeral director of the high street, Chris Grigg, chief executive of British Land, says they “may continue to be used for some years to come but they are likely to become more marginal”. The future lies with malls and retail parks, apparently.

Mr Grigg is correct, up to a point. In a country as wet and windy as ours, malls clearly have a future. Why traipse down a freezing high street in a duffle coat when you can wander through a mall in mid-January in a T-shirt?

However, the idea that the future of shopping lies exclusively one way or the other is simplistic. Choice is a defining characteristic of the age, and when it comes to shopping, a growing number of people want both/and, not either/or. Malls are good for chain stores but useless for specialist outlets; and while the enclosed space keeps everyone dry, it traps noise and can be deafening and claustrophobic.

Britain would be a miserable place in which to shop if the options narrowed down to malls, retail villages and the net. But Mr Grigg’s prediction will come true if town councils do not up their game and think more creatively about the asset that so many of them appear ready to let slip through their fingers. For a start, they need to look again at parking policies that make it nigh-on impossible for drivers to shop anywhere near their high streets without paying a punitive charge for the privilege.

The Government needs to do more as well. The Communities minister, Eric Pickles, has promised to tackle what he calls “aggressive parking policies” and has offered smaller shops some financial relief. But these are only half-measures. Business rates need to be cut right back if small shops are not to be edged out of high streets entirely and the vacant sites abandoned to wealthy chains, charity shops and developers of luxury flats.

The high street is not dead but it’s certainly looking pasty. We only have ourselves to blame if the patient is allowed to expire.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Deputy Editor: i’s Review of the Year

Andrew Webster
RIP Voicemail?  

Voicemail has got me out of some tight corners, so let's not abandon it

Simon Kelner
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all