High Street Regeneration – Suburban Style

One of my local town centres got funding from The Mayor of London to regenerate its high street.

I was there this morning, so thought I would give a quick run-down of what has been done.

There was a fund for new shop fronts, and here are a few examples of the end results:
Sidcup Shop Fronts 1

Sidcup Shop Fronts 2

Having a shop-front improvement scheme or project is a good idea – it’s the sort of thing I have proposed and would have done. It is good to show other shop-keepers what can be done fairly cheaply, and it is well known that when the neighbours improve others are more likely to follow. However, although these are an improvement on what was there before, they do somehow leave me cold.

A hub for new, small, businesses has been set up, incorporating a Box-Shop

Sidcup Box Shop

Again, the sort of thing I have gone on about (and is quite common now), but I do wonder to what extent these ‘pop-up’ like things work in outer-London suburbia. I wonder if an outer London borough, which has a large proportion of low wage earners, has enough of a market for the sort of things being sold in here. I don’t know the answer to this, and part of the point of such ‘pop-ups’ is to test the market, but it will be interesting to see what happens once the funding runs out.

Another part of the improvement strategy is re-paving of the pavement

Sidcup Paving 1

I am not convinced by this. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that the public realm is important but who is really going to visit a high street to see the new pavement?

The junction seen to the right of the above photograph has also been repaved, but across the whole width of the road, and I would have extended the re-paving right across the above junction to calm the road and create more of a place where a few small events could have been squeeqed in.

This is the junction from the otherside:

Sidcup Paving 2

As I said, the new paving has been extended to include the road surface to create a little bit of space outside of the library for events, but this should have been extended across the whole of the junction with the High Street. With a limited budget, I would have extended the new paving across whole junctions along the High Street in preference to replacing the pavements only along the entire High Street.  If treated as a whole, this junction and other junctions could have changed the feel of the High Street.

I suspect that one of this High Street’s problems wasn’t so much the look of the previous pavement but this sort of thing:

Sidcup Parking Sign

This seems to be saying ‘We don’t really want your custom – and anyway there is so little to do here that it can be done in under 2 hours’.

On the whole I would have spent the money on putting on events, paying off the local authority to provide free parking, and paying a consultant to negotiate lower rents for the independent shop-keepers. And I would have provided something to attract the 100s of full-time dance students who are based a few hundred yards away but are noticable by their absence on the High Street.

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