The recently published Grimsey Review of failing high streets across the country highlights how important the challenge is to ensure the future of Clitheroe town centre.
I would therefore like to express my support for the work of Ribble Valley councillors Ged Mirfin and Kevin Horkin to establish a town centre commission to take up this challenge.
I have only lived in the area a few years but in that short period have seen some deterioration in Clitheroe, with small shops closing and premises left empty.
Having said that, there are still some wonderful small businesses in the town that provide traditional quality and service you don’t often find elsewhere – and long may they survive.
There are lots of reasons for shops failing on the high street, including spiralling costs of rents and rates; out of town shopping and leisure developments; parking charges or lack of parking spaces; poor public transport links; supermarkets that sell everything from vegetables to car insurance; and online shopping. All these issues need to be addressed to ensure the success of small businesses in the town.
Planning plays an important role in the future of the high street and the authorities, businesses and consumers need to work together to decide how Clitheroe should look in 10 or 20 years’ time. We should not be waiting for developers or retail chains to come along with plans for a particular development, but rather there should be a centre-wide plan earmarking areas for shopping, leisure, arts, entertainment, business and housing.
Rather than trying to fight technological changes that online shopping brings, businesses need to embrace them and use them to enhance what they have to offer.
At the end of the day, people do actually like to go out to see and do things.
A vibrant town centre is an indication of a vibrant community and is essential to our local economy.
While the challenge ahead is great I have no doubt Clitheroe has the people with the right skills, innovative ideas and enthusiasm to carry it off. I would urge everyone to get behind this initiative.