Can Mary’s ideas save south Essex town centres?

Echo: Feeling the pinch – Southend High Street Feeling the pinch – Southend High Street

HIGH street traders battling the economic gloom have welcomed TV retail guru Mary Portas’s calls to restore vitality to town centres.

The star of BBC Two’s Mary Queen of Shops, has told the Government it must reduce red tape for retailers.

She also wants to see cheaper parking, more old-fashioned markets and landlords not to leave shops standing empty.

Traders in south Essex have welcomed the TV presenter’s report, Understanding High Street Performances.

Neil Raven, owner of Ravens department store in Clifftown Road, Southend, said: “Mary Portas has said she wants to revitalise high streets, which is what we want to hear.

“Obviously, it may take a while to get everything right, as different towns have different needs, but bringing more people into town centres can only be a good thing.”

Most town centre traders believe scrapping car parking charges would help put them on an even footing with their out-of-town rivals.

Mr Raven said: “It can affect business if potential customers are put off by being charged to park, especially when shoppers know parking at big shopping centres such as Lakeside is free.

“I don’t think most people mind having to pay something towards car parking, but if they think the fees being asked are unreasonable, they will go elsewhere.”

Trevor Draper owns two Billericay High Street shops, the Billericay Cookshop and the Emporium, and is also a former chairman of the town’s Chamber of Commerce.

He agrees parking is a crucial issue, and thinks councils should be doing move to address it. He explained: “The problem is when we have looked before at trying to get something sorted, the borough and county councils simply pass it between each other, so nothing gets done.”

Mary Portas suggests markets in town centres attract shoppers, who also then use nearby shops, but Mr Draper is not so certain.

He explained: “We have just held the annual Christmas Market in Billericay.

“It brought in more than 20,000 visitors to the High Street and I feel though this type of influx – in one big blast – can be better for high streets than more regular markets.

“Regular markets add to councils’ costs for street cleaning, for instance. They would need to be planned out very carefully.”

Some councils have criticised Mary Portas’s report, because she did not consult them, but Basildon Council’s Tory leader Tony Ball said it offered sensible suggestions.

His council already offers some free parking at weekends and over Christmas. Mr Ball added: “We agree high streets and town centres are the heart communities.

“This is why my council is embarking on major regeneration programmes for its towns, something we have been working on since 2003.

“Through the ambitious redevelopment of Basildon town centre, we will build on what is good, and drastically improve the things that need changing.”

Comments (13)

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1:02pm Fri 16 Dec 11

APR says...

I wouldn't take any notice of what this woman says. She lives on a different planet.
I wouldn't take any notice of what this woman says. She lives on a different planet. APR
  • Score: 0

1:57pm Fri 16 Dec 11

bazza 1 says...

“Through the ambitious redevelopment of Basildon town centre, we will build on what is good, and drastically improve the things that need changing.”........
....................
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Anyone who walks through Basildon Town Centre can see it is failing badly. Multiple phone stores, and pound stores and charity shops. Not to mention the empty shops and pubs. The market used to be packed with people, now it is a waste of space. As soon as the council started tinkering with the market it rapidly went down hill. Parking is expensive, and the only car park to offer short term FREE parking, in case you just needed to pop to the bank, was turned into a pay to park a couple of years ago. The development of the "Westgate Centre" several years ago, must have been planned by a moron. If you are not a resident of Basildon, and walk through the town centre, you could be forgiven to think it ended at the Wilkinson store. The flow of foot traffic throught he centre just doesnt work. No matter how much the council spend on the centre, my guess is it will be wasted money.
“Through the ambitious redevelopment of Basildon town centre, we will build on what is good, and drastically improve the things that need changing.”........ .................... ........... Anyone who walks through Basildon Town Centre can see it is failing badly. Multiple phone stores, and pound stores and charity shops. Not to mention the empty shops and pubs. The market used to be packed with people, now it is a waste of space. As soon as the council started tinkering with the market it rapidly went down hill. Parking is expensive, and the only car park to offer short term FREE parking, in case you just needed to pop to the bank, was turned into a pay to park a couple of years ago. The development of the "Westgate Centre" several years ago, must have been planned by a moron. If you are not a resident of Basildon, and walk through the town centre, you could be forgiven to think it ended at the Wilkinson store. The flow of foot traffic throught he centre just doesnt work. No matter how much the council spend on the centre, my guess is it will be wasted money. bazza 1
  • Score: 0

2:00pm Fri 16 Dec 11

Mark D says...

APR wrote:
I wouldn't take any notice of what this woman says. She lives on a different planet.
Why do you say that? She has a proven track record.
[quote][p][bold]APR[/bold] wrote: I wouldn't take any notice of what this woman says. She lives on a different planet.[/p][/quote]Why do you say that? She has a proven track record. Mark D
  • Score: 0

2:17pm Fri 16 Dec 11

APR says...

She has a habit of stating the blatantly obvious.
She has a habit of stating the blatantly obvious. APR
  • Score: 0

2:35pm Fri 16 Dec 11

emcee says...

APR wrote:
I wouldn't take any notice of what this woman says. She lives on a different planet.
Absolutely nothing wrong with what she says. However, she is only confirming what most people thought anyway.
Cheaper parking and not allowing properties to stand empty (even if this means cheaper business rates and cheaper rents) is definately the way to go.
Also, I would go as far to say that we need a more efficient bus service, especially around this time of year. Who wants to stand at a freezing bus stop for half an hour, laden with shopping, because buses never stick to timetables or are cancelled. This has happened to me on several occasions when the wife has had the car and I have needed to use the bus. We need more buses on the roads and a "shopper special" flat rate fare of, say, £1.
[quote][p][bold]APR[/bold] wrote: I wouldn't take any notice of what this woman says. She lives on a different planet.[/p][/quote]Absolutely nothing wrong with what she says. However, she is only confirming what most people thought anyway. Cheaper parking and not allowing properties to stand empty (even if this means cheaper business rates and cheaper rents) is definately the way to go. Also, I would go as far to say that we need a more efficient bus service, especially around this time of year. Who wants to stand at a freezing bus stop for half an hour, laden with shopping, because buses never stick to timetables or are cancelled. This has happened to me on several occasions when the wife has had the car and I have needed to use the bus. We need more buses on the roads and a "shopper special" flat rate fare of, say, £1. emcee
  • Score: 0

2:43pm Fri 16 Dec 11

jayman says...

Mary Portas

"She also wants to see cheaper parking, more old-fashioned markets and landlords not to leave shops standing empty."

Southend council..

demolished a council owned old fashioned market after years of neglect. Has astronomical parking fees and offers no support to traders whilst protecting the interests of landlords who charge disproportionate rents..
Mary Portas "She also wants to see cheaper parking, more old-fashioned markets and landlords not to leave shops standing empty." Southend council.. demolished a council owned old fashioned market after years of neglect. Has astronomical parking fees and offers no support to traders whilst protecting the interests of landlords who charge disproportionate rents.. jayman
  • Score: 0

3:04pm Fri 16 Dec 11

Keptquiettillnow says...

What this shows to me is town planners have got the whole thing wrong for a very long time.
What this shows to me is town planners have got the whole thing wrong for a very long time. Keptquiettillnow
  • Score: 0

3:06pm Fri 16 Dec 11

Joe Hune says...

The death of the High Street is the internet! It is so much easier to shop on the internet and parking doesn't come in to it! The argumement about Lakeside and free parking is valid, but for what you pay in time, fuel and wear and tear on your vehicle, I wouldn't have thought there is much in it.

High Streets can't match internet prices and 2012 will see shops like Comet going to the wall because they can't compete. Woolworth couldn't compete with the cheaper items coming out of China and they went and the list will go on!

Unless people support the local shops they will all eventually go and the High Street will be dead.

Supermarkets have already all but killed off Butchers, Bakers, Fishmongers and Fruit & Veg shops and we just get more and more charity shops (they get help on the business rates) and pound shops which isn't good for any area.

But what's the answer, Stop the internet? Not possible!! Stop Sainsbury and Tesco selling everything like electrical items? Not possible!!

GOOD BYE HIGH STREET!
The death of the High Street is the internet! It is so much easier to shop on the internet and parking doesn't come in to it! The argumement about Lakeside and free parking is valid, but for what you pay in time, fuel and wear and tear on your vehicle, I wouldn't have thought there is much in it. High Streets can't match internet prices and 2012 will see shops like Comet going to the wall because they can't compete. Woolworth couldn't compete with the cheaper items coming out of China and they went and the list will go on! Unless people support the local shops they will all eventually go and the High Street will be dead. Supermarkets have already all but killed off Butchers, Bakers, Fishmongers and Fruit & Veg shops and we just get more and more charity shops (they get help on the business rates) and pound shops which isn't good for any area. But what's the answer, Stop the internet? Not possible!! Stop Sainsbury and Tesco selling everything like electrical items? Not possible!! GOOD BYE HIGH STREET! Joe Hune
  • Score: 0

3:26pm Fri 16 Dec 11

Mark D says...

APR wrote:
She has a habit of stating the blatantly obvious.
So why does that make her on a different planet? Surely the people who are on a different planet are those who criticise and ignore what she is saying.
[quote][p][bold]APR[/bold] wrote: She has a habit of stating the blatantly obvious.[/p][/quote]So why does that make her on a different planet? Surely the people who are on a different planet are those who criticise and ignore what she is saying. Mark D
  • Score: 0

3:39am Sat 17 Dec 11

NightnDay says...

heres an idea she didn't think of...limit the number of super markets in and around the town...England is very nearly Tescoland...like American drug dealers and prostitutes theres one on every corner!
heres an idea she didn't think of...limit the number of super markets in and around the town...England is very nearly Tescoland...like American drug dealers and prostitutes theres one on every corner! NightnDay
  • Score: 0

12:18pm Sat 17 Dec 11

Keptquiettillnow says...

Nothing wrong with supermarkets, but they need to be on the high street not out of town.
Not everyone drives a car.
Nothing wrong with supermarkets, but they need to be on the high street not out of town. Not everyone drives a car. Keptquiettillnow
  • Score: 0

6:32am Sun 18 Dec 11

Bosniavet says...

jayman wrote:
Mary Portas "She also wants to see cheaper parking, more old-fashioned markets and landlords not to leave shops standing empty." Southend council.. demolished a council owned old fashioned market after years of neglect. Has astronomical parking fees and offers no support to traders whilst protecting the interests of landlords who charge disproportionate rents..
Jayman - very good & well-put points. I can't help thinking that the market should be held in the High Street, possibly the "Plaza" at the top end (assuming you can move all the "students" etc who seem to spend their entire day there), or else the space where the Victoria Circus roundabout used to be. Even moving the market to the former B&Q site would help.
[quote][p][bold]jayman[/bold] wrote: Mary Portas "She also wants to see cheaper parking, more old-fashioned markets and landlords not to leave shops standing empty." Southend council.. demolished a council owned old fashioned market after years of neglect. Has astronomical parking fees and offers no support to traders whilst protecting the interests of landlords who charge disproportionate rents..[/p][/quote]Jayman - very good & well-put points. I can't help thinking that the market should be held in the High Street, possibly the "Plaza" at the top end (assuming you can move all the "students" etc who seem to spend their entire day there), or else the space where the Victoria Circus roundabout used to be. Even moving the market to the former B&Q site would help. Bosniavet
  • Score: 0

6:35am Sun 18 Dec 11

Bosniavet says...

Keptquiettillnow wrote:
What this shows to me is town planners have got the whole thing wrong for a very long time.
Yes, I think most of us who aren't town planners would agree.....
[quote][p][bold]Keptquiettillnow[/bold] wrote: What this shows to me is town planners have got the whole thing wrong for a very long time.[/p][/quote]Yes, I think most of us who aren't town planners would agree..... Bosniavet
  • Score: 0

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