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You don't have to buy from shops in town, but it helps encourage businesses but you should always appreciate the things a home town or your residence does well, otherwise why live there
I think you are right, we do need independent smaller shops, and we do need a market that can thrive. For independent smaller shops, we need retail units that are the right size and price that they are affordable - high overhead costs will deter lots of smaller businesses from taking on prime location retail premises.The last thing we want are more larger shops, we need independent smaller shops and a thriving market. We need a council and chamber of commerce to live in the real world. Towns that are doing well attract visitors because they have something unique, independent shops and cheap parking.
The 'Portas Fund' seems to be largely unspent - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-21775773 .Even when you look at areas like Sutton Coldfield where independent trading is quite good, but even then the town itself has a vacancy rate of around 20% when I visited the council for a week in December 2011, although the council has good plans afoot to sort this out and they have made an application for this Government/ Portas to support ailing towns (although 100k won't get far). Sutton got to such as state the council fired the town centre manager last year in an area that for the most part is quite well off. Part of the issue is Birmingham to contend with there.
Ghost Town might be a little hysterical, yes there have been places closing recently which is to be regretted but Stafford is really no different to most similarly sized towns in the UK, and if you compare shop vacancy rates in Stafford with nearby towns then we are fairing somewhat better – have you visited Dudley recently?
Perhaps some of the shops closing should be grasped as an opportunity. We all know that more people are shopping on the internet, shopping out of town or just not shopping at all –we now have too many shops. This is being made worse by the likes of the County Council building more units as part of their new offices (which of course as predicted lie empty)
The town needs to reflect reality if it is to survive and prosper. Rents are astronomic and it is quite clear that we will be stuck with vacant units ad infinitum unless action is taken. Start by relocating businesses (the very few that are actually left) from the Princess Row area and demolish from Cash Converters right along to the old Walmsley Furniture shop. This area could be better used as open space or as town centre accommodation – it has been shown for example in the pleasant looking development alongside “The Yard” that if is done sensitively town centre accommodation can work. It also brings more people right into the heart of town.
Stafford like everywhere else has to adapt or die. This impasse where we have empty units and huge shop rents that leads to more empty units and more degradation is a self fulfilling prophecy. Town Centres in 2012 have to offer something different and that includes a mix of High Street Chains, local shops, green space, and accommodation – i.e. they have to be places where people actually want to visit, work and do business.
If they do have a plan, then it's a very cunning one...I'm sure I remember uproar about out of town developments, over fears they would draw customers away from the town centres. Not sure they can win, but putting an extra supermarket onto what is effectively the stafford town ringroad doesn't seem like the best plan.
Supermarkets sell everything and therefore people buy from them and if they don't have what they want they go on line. It's only specialist shops that people want like the electrician in town who can sell anything at a good price. I asked about the Coop - so far there is no-one coming into the Co-op. that's going to make the high street really desolate.If they do have a plan, then it's a very cunning one...