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Upper High Street Development Site

February 13, 2012 5:31 PM

Upper High StreetA public consultaton on the future of a large area from Upper High Street to Church Street has just closed and the council will now prepare its formal development brief.

Once approved, this will guide future developers on what the council will be looking for from all future planning applications within that area

It is important to emphasise that there are numerous land owners involved across the whole site and that there isn't any proposed council-funded scheme.

Increasing footfall and numbers of shoppers is the most important factor for regenerating Upper High Street, which currently is failing as a shopping parade. A single popular retail outlet, probably a small food store, would attract shoppers.

Unless Upper High Street receives a boost of this kind, even more of its existing shops will close. A Tesco seems the most likely, as they already own part of the site, which they can potentially sit on for many years.

Upper High StreetHowever, there are several important "red line" issues:

  • Any food store or retail outlet must stand adjacent to the existing shops, not directly opposite the existing houses, have access for deliveries only to and from Church Street and provide customer parking within its own site.
  • There must be no through road between Church Street and Upper High Street.
  • Multi-storey car parks are unpopular and should be avoided, so the current area of ground level public car park must be retained.
  • Low-cost, low-level housing must be included.
  • Lastly (and perhaps most importantly) the proposed uses of the development site must be flexible in their location.

Too rigid an approach would mean nothing ever happens. Various parts of the site are likely to have planning applications submitted at different times, maybe over several years. Unless there is flexibility, this area could take another 20 years to regenerate, by which time the current Upper High Street shopping parade might no longer be viable.

In today's economic climate, saving our local shops has to be a priority. The only way to do that is to increase trade. The only way to increase trade is to bring more people to the area. That requires a popular store to attract them.