Town Centres, Neighbourhood shops and housing design

A few random thoughts and observations inspired by a few things I saw today whilst in Reigate.

I have gone on before about what I see as poor or uninspiring housing design and the need for a lot more good quality ‘ordinary’, so I was interested in seeing this:

Reigate Jan 2014 (1)

The house on the left of the photograph above shows what I think is a really good example of how adding external insulation to a house can be used as a means to improving the look of a house. To me this is a fine example of good quality ‘ordinary’, and something which needs to be widely repeated.

There is (quite rightly) a lot of talk about the need to understand that town centres and high streets should be about more than retail and the need for mixed use in general. Currently this tends to get interpreted as residential as part of the mix, but I thought I would add the reminder that part of the mix can also be commercial. The photograph below shows a 1930s parade in the centre of Reigate with the floors above the ground floor given over to office space.

Reigate Jan 2014 (6)

This reminds us that commercial is about more than premises for large companies on the edge of the town in new shiney blocks or on hidden away business parks. Small businesses need small offices, and having them in town centres adds to footfall and supplies customers for the retail etc at ground level. The example in the photograph above can be repeated in new developments.

On the edge of the town centre, hidden away but in the middle of a residential area was this small parade of shops:

Reigate Jan 2014 (10)

I mention it here because it is successful (or appears to be anyway by the look of them) with not one empty unit, and looked good.

This fish and chip restaurant looks inviting and is no more expensive than an ordinary fish and chip shop:

Reigate Jan 2014 (9)

And note the simple seating outside, on what would otherwise be a wasted bit of pavement, for eating your takeaway chips.

The busy bakers had a simple yet effective looking display of its produce:

Reigate Jan 2014 (7)

There was also (but not pictured) a nice looking flourist and an attractive looking cafe/tearoom which was buzzing. There was also a cycle shop which had a nice looking cafe and organised daily bile rides and opposite (but closed on a Monday) was a proper, quality, independent butchers whose products were used in the cafes.

In short, this shows that small neighbourhood parades can thrive if they are attractive and know their customers. Some town centres need to learn from these examples.

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