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Why We Must Regenerate Our High Streets

Friday 9 March 2012, 10:27
By John Smith

At this present time there is a lot of talk about how to regenerate or re-energise our High Streets. This seems to be a regular event. Every time the UK enters into a recession of sorts we hear those well-hacked phrases bouncing off our ear drums with a regular heavy beat.

So what, if any, relevance does regeneration have for us here in Wincanton, Castle Cary and towns throughout the area?

Wincanton High Street

Every day High Street traders and business owners turn up at their places of business, unlock the doors and wait in the hope that local residents and visitors come their way to do business. For these brave traders life is not easy. Gone are the days when you opened a High Street business and everyone naturally came to buy your product/services. In these modern times you are under the cosh of the major supermarkets that have drawn the majority of the shopping footfall to edge of town retail parks.

In Wincanton we have both Morrisons and Lidls that attract by far the biggest footfall away from the High Street. In essence Morrisons and Lidls, between them, are now Wincanton's "town centre". Our town centre may still be the geographic centre, but the vast majority of the business is now done on our edge of town Retail Park.

Over many years our High Street has had to make serious adjustments. What's the point of trying to provide the same products/services that Morrisons or Lidls supply? Nine times out of ten you are beaten on price by a mile because they have the buying power to get everything at ridiculously cheap prices.

Ask farmers what they get paid for the milk they supply to the major supermarkets, and then look at what you pay in that supermarket for that same product. Supermarkets have become huge juggernauts that have the simplest of aims. Buy products as cheaply as possible, and sell it at a profit. These supermarket chains have colossal power in the market place, and have no real thought for rural towns or High Streets.

They don't care if Somerset High Streets get converted to private residences. They welcome that prospect. So in those circumstances the answer is simple. Don't even try to compete unless you have a very clear edge that levels the playing field. Like many other towns in similar rural areas, Wincanton has adjusted to become a High Street with a very good, and growing selection of unique and specialist shops. But being unique and specialist may not be enough in these tough economic times. So what can these businesses do to help themselves?

I suggest that they can start by doing an in-house study. We have just lost 180 jobs with the closure of the Adams Cheese packing plant. This was the result of a large international business doing a company-wide business assessment. The only difference between them and any High Street shop is size. We all need to reassess from time to time, and make adjustments as needed. In tough times we especially need to double check that our spending is good and that it brings the best possible return. Nobody worries too much when business is good, but in hard times we hurt as the inflow of money dramatically reduces.

Divine Wines, currently displaying an exhibition of Margaret Kelly's paintings.I was pleased to see one such High Street business taking a positive step. Divine Wines of High Street, Wincanton is a long standing local business. But in this difficult economic climate Jenny, the owner, has decided to use her shop space more effectively. She has created an in-house gallery to display paintings by local artists. At the moment the paintings are by Margaret Kelly of Bayford near Wincanton.

So if you feel like having a nice glass of red or white, or even a great cup of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate etc., why not drop in to Divine Wines in Wincanton High Street, and you will have the added bonus of being able to examine the selection of paintings supplied by Margaret Kelly. The paintings will be on display for the next few weeks.

This is a great example of a small High Street business working smart. Jenny is sowing some seeds and I have no doubt that this will prove to be a very interesting experience and could well be a fairly long term measure. It's a great way to attract new business. And don't we all need that? Maybe you have other ideas that could be used to help our High Street businesses survive and thrive in these difficult times. Contact me at and let me know what you would do. Help us to keep strong and healthy High Streets.




Comments

Victor Meldrew
Posts: 2
Comment
Re: Why We Must Regenerate Our High Streets
Reply #1 on : Fri March 09, 2012, 17:42:25
As I have commented here and elsewhere, just wht id SSDC doing to regenerate? It seems to be nothing, but why not? Surely more shops means more Rates income! I have written to two UK based business`s suggesting they look at placing an outlet here, not surprisingly only one replied. Traverllodge had no intention in coming here when I asked, but look now. It is time the peoplke of Wincanton woke up and started doing things for themselves instead of `we want it, but it is up to somebody else to do it`! I asume the Carnival went that way!!

Posts: 3
Comment
Your voice that matters
Reply #2 on : Sat March 10, 2012, 00:24:47
John
Well done on such a well written article & thought provoking subject. Having read your article my first thoughts were of the recent story of Frome & its shopping area regeneration, bucking the national trend, its unique specialist shops now have many visiting the area. I’ve lived in Wincanton for 12 years now, previously living in rural Norfolk. When we visited Wincanton before we moved, a visit to the Green Dragon was always high on the priority list, why? because it wasn’t about just buying the things we needed it was about the experience, something which is becoming harder to find. The internet has made finding what we want so much easier but takes away the fun, the personal interaction & the excitement of finding something you’ve been looking for since as long as you can remember. And here, I guess lies the problem, property investment has left many with empty shops that no one can make a living from. We can all criticize the super chains for moving our spending activities to the fringes of town but that’s just simple economics, we all use them & they serve a purpose. So, what can be done? I would suggest that we focus on local produce, specialization & most importantly, local support.
Inspired by your article I took a walk along the High Street & thought about what we have, I’m bored of the continual doom & gloom placed on the town & wanted to start my response with the positives. Firstly, The Cunning Artificer, a great place to start, as, for those that are not aware, here is a shop which is internationally unique, it promotes the work of author Terry Pratchett, hard to believe that many may not be aware of his work but do your homework & you will soon understand. Throughout the year, people from around the world visit Wincanton just to be a part of the Disc World phenomena. Many visit the shop bringing a boost to the local economy, I really wish I could give a value but can’t. Recently, the shop frontage was excellently restored by local tradesman Gordon Champion, to replicate an era long gone but wow it makes you stop & want to go in. Across the road is the Wincanton Cobbler, it’s been there forever, but in this throw-away world how refreshing to know that your favourite shoes really can be repaired & last another year, need a key replacing? Don’t waste fuel on a trip to Yeovil it’s here in Town. Apologies for not knowing the proprietors name but I’m sure we soon will. And then to the local butcher, often a queue outside but don’t let this put you off, it’s local & it’s fresh, the stationary shop, even open on a Sunday for your newspaper or a great selection of local books.
As I stop to reflect I realize they have all responded to local needs & all seem to be doing well. I move on to the CO-OP, the staff know me & all those things that I forgot to buy at the supermarket are there. Beauty Salons, Hair Salons, Barbers, Barkers, Opticians, Florists, Chemists & the pubs, those welcoming hostelries that made Wincanton what it is. Slightly unfair to single out one but The Nog Inn is an award winning pub which is family run, engages the community & thrives in a small town typifying the tale of a Town on the up, just if you focus on the positives, it’s a frame of mind. Just because times are hard doesn’t mean we all have to feel down & focus on the negatives. Take the car parking charge debate, yes, it will put people off visiting & bringing in revenue but it’s a done deal, we can blame whoever we like, we vote those in to take care of us & the system has already decided the outcome, we can blame them, slate them but at the end of the day we can’t change what has already been agreed. So, next time you vote think hard. What we can do is get involved, make a noise about what we want & how we want to do it.
Continuing my journey I’m at the Post Office, many across the country are closing down but like many of you I find excuses to visit, why? Because they know me, we can chat or communicate in person, something that we are forgetting how to do, you may not know your neighbour but I bet you could name at least one of the team. Even when a bust pipe threatened their operation this winter it was ‘business as usual’.
I’m in danger at this point of missing many out, I will be more than happy to review ever single shop in Wincanton if required, this challenge is my attempt to encourage you all to voice your thoughts. It may be hypocritical that I promote talking face to face & then face my views online, I’m aware that many of you may not have access to a computer or know how but courses at the Balsam Centre can sort that, talk to the Town Hall staff or write to the local press but the worst you can do is nothing. Even a trip to the library can help & we all know how much they need our support. Thanks to those who aren’t afraid to ‘get involved’; we should soon have the museum back open, located within the Library, another example of a town adapting to change. When the museum re-opens go & visit, it’s free, talk to those in attendance, share your knowledge & make a small donation, a small local museum is a big attraction, its unique & believe me, Wincanton may be small but it has a wealth of historical importance.
As I head downhill I pass Camelot Photographic, I’ll never make Graham a millionaire but over the years he has developed many of my pictures, saved a family holiday when passport photo’s were needed & enhanced my rubbish pictures taken far afield. Not wishing to appear to be promoting a single business but Graham has even been known to shoot the stars & Stuart has had his nature pictures in the national press. Scarred about moving to digital pay a visit & you’ll never look back.
So, review done, back to the point, what do we do next? Not sure of have the answers but my response mainly has the aim of provoking other responses. Do we close the high street once a week or month to traffic, bring in a fresh local produce market & rural auction or just sit back & let the town die? It’s up to you good people of Wincanton. Check the Wincanton Window regularly, air your views & get involved.
I really could continue for much longer but it’s late, happy to add more but need to know that that’s what you want, haven’t even touched on a wonderful new Health Centre with a great team, community support groups, health & well-being facilities & so much more.

Posts: 2
Comment
Re: Your Voice That Matters
Reply #3 on : Sat March 10, 2012, 11:51:31
Hi Steve, thanks for such a comprehensive and positive response - it's worthy of an article of its own! And speaking of which, why not do an in-depth monthly review of a business or shop in Wincanton for us? Sounds like it'd be something you'd enjoy and I'm sure the businesses would appreciate the promotion.

Do let me know if you're interested!
Iain Phillips
Posts: 1
Comment
Thanks Steve
Reply #4 on : Sun March 11, 2012, 18:35:56
For your kind comments in the last paragraph and also for an excellent response.


Iain
arthur pickup
Posts: 3
Comment
Regeneration of our High street
Reply #5 on : Wed March 14, 2012, 17:09:31
There is nothing wrong with Morrisons and Lidls, and not to forget Cullingford Carpets, Rochfords, and Gilliams Car Spares, being our new town centre. It’s called progress. On this vain, even our new Health Centre as moved out to join them.
Morisons and Lidl’s are now great assets to the town. Before they arrived, my wife and I, did most of our weekly shopping in Yeovil, Gillingham or Wells.. Whereas Morisons and Lidl’s now allows us to shop locally. We also frequent, Cullingford Carpets, Rochfords, and Gilliams Car Spares. All of which we regard as part of the Wincanton community. These peripheral shops now bring in people from many miles around our town. Better use should be made of this catchment area to encourage these regular shoppers to visit our High Street.
Extravaganzas are ok, and I am sure that everyone enjoys them, but they do little financially for our local businesses. Personally, I think we should close the High street every weekend even if only for the Saturday morning. Put on some simple (inexpensive) local entertainment. Get the shoppers used to the idea that Wincanton is a good place to come for a laugh and a positive experience. We have some top Notch shops in the town. And if people like the experience of visiting our High Street they will spend money and more importantly return. Here are some ideas:- Punch and Judy, Pole dancing, Line dancing, Boul, Bowls, Singing, Brass Bands, Archery, Glove football, Morris dancing, Speed dating, Fancy dress, Swop shop, Go carting. Skittles, Fancy dress, Comedian, Conjurer, Old time dancing, Modern dancing. Marbles, Conkers, Antiques road show, Hand bell ringing, Swimming, Pram racing, and of course Fortune telling. Obviously some of the events, such as Archery, can not be held on the street. The street would just be used as a catchment area.
When the town already has an event scheduled, such as Hogswatch, we should make the most of it. Shutting the Street and advertising it everywhere would be a start. I was amazed to see that someone as eminent as Sir Terry Pratchett arrived in the town last November, with virtually no pre-advertising, no fanfare, no official reception from the Mayor or even Business-Together. This man has over 70 million followers world wide and brought with him over 700 on the day. It defies logic that Wincanton Window, BT and the Town Council did not run a campaign to bring into the town more of his followers from around the County. Even an advertisement on Morrisons Notice board would have been nice.
davidsmith
Posts: 1
Comment
Town growth, and Hogswatch
Reply #6 on : Wed March 14, 2012, 17:23:14
Development of the industrial outskirts may indeed be 'progress', but while I don't necessarilly disagree at all with Arthur's sentiment, it's important to know when progress that is considered normal is in fact NOT good. I suspect there's a lot of variation on what individuals think Wincanton should become. I, for one, seem to be of the mind that development and growth of larger towns and cities is actually detrimental to human health and society. It's often a struggle to identify the long term benefits.

Speaking of the Discworld bunch, I went into the shop the other day to suggest that some consideration went into combining Hogswatch with the Christmas Extravaganza - a match made in heaven, for both us and the Discworld fans who'd surely appreciate the town, twinned with Ankh, seemingly celebrating the same fictional holiday.

The extravaganza is always only a few days later, which seems like a missed opportunity every time. Unfortuantely it sounds like this year's dates for Hogswatch are already decided, so unless WBT is willing to arrange the next Extravaganza for late November we may miss the match again.

They also tell me that last Hogswatch was rather upscaled in comparison to previous years, and as such they'll need to consider more serious event management, and also contemplate the resulting additional costs. It's a free event, after all, which might require ticketing if the event gets any bigger.
Last Edit: March 14, 2012, 17:25:24 by davidsmith  

Posts: 2
Comment
Discworld Coverage
Reply #7 on : Wed March 14, 2012, 17:38:17
Late last year I put out an appeal for someone to write up and generally shout about the Discworld events. The lovely Periwinkle (aka Mandy Eldred-Taylor) offered her services and we had a really nice article after the 2011 Hogswatch (http://www.wincantonwindow.co.uk/hogswatch-2011.htm). I hope we get lots more like this, both in the run up to and after other Discworld events.

Don't forget though, Wincanton Window can only publish something if other people write about it. We don't have journalists, so if no one lets us know something important is happening in town, we've no chance!

There seems to be a general lack of communication to the various organisations that could actually offer some promotion to such events, which I hope we can overcome. It's just a matter a everyone sparing some time and getting in the habit of letting those organisations know.
Last Edit: March 14, 2012, 17:39:18 by *  
fox
Posts: 1
Comment
Angel Lane
Reply #8 on : Thu March 15, 2012, 14:11:26
We recently moved to Wincanton. We loved the easy access to the High Street & made use of the shops. However for a few months now our easy route to town has been closed. Nothing seems to be happening. I have phoned the named person on the poster, unfortunately she had no information, except to pass my number to someone in the building department. I haven't heard any more. When will something be done? By closing this route you are losing custom for the High Street.

I also observed that another optician is opening opposite an existing one! And today I also heard that Boots is moving out to be close to the new Doctor's surgery.

It sounds as though those councillors in charge are doing everything to move business away from the High Street!
Last Edit: March 15, 2012, 14:15:16 by fox  
davidsmith
Posts: 2
Comment
Angel Lane
Reply #9 on : Thu March 15, 2012, 14:40:32
fox, is Angel Lane the footpath that cuts in next to St. Margaret's Hospice, through to Balsam Fields?

I noticed that has been closed for a little while now, which has been frustrating because I often jog through there (and back) on my way to and from the Balsam Centre.

On that note, if you're in the market for a replacement shortcut, you might not be aware that from Balsam Fields there's a similar shortcut in almost exactly the same place - through the Balsam Centre driveway and grounds. I see people walking through there all the time, so I presume it's no issue. It's more or less the same route but about 50yds further up. You'll come out at the bottom of the two 'Memorial Hall' carparks, entering the High Street near Wincanton Tandoori, presuming you choose not to walk round to the Hall and come out at the very top of the High Street.
arthur pickup
Posts: 3
Comment
David
Reply #10 on : Thu March 15, 2012, 14:53:14
David
I must agree with your sentiments to the full, they are very honourable. They echo my own thoughts to the tee. I do not like progress, growth, town centre migration and the modern way of life in general. I hanker back to the days when my milk was delivered, in the morning, to my door by horse and cart. It was then ladled into my jug, from a churn, by a local farmer who I regarded as a personal friend. In those days we valued items which were made in Britain and especially those items made locally. However today we value, Ring tones, Lotto tickets, Bottled water (more expensive per litre than petrol) and of course Bottled oxygen (the next must have item). All these useless items are products of the American way of life.
The fashion of the day is out of town shopping. So unfortunately in today’s world we must go with the flow to survive. If Yeovil needs a traffic free shopping precinct so do we. If Yeovil needs out of town shopping so do we. The same applies to on line shopping, one of my pet hates, which I am sure will grow like topsy over the next few years.
With regard to Hogswatch type events I was very pleased to hear the WBT is trying to synchronise the event with the Extravaganza. If Bernard wants to sell tickets to his merchandising events at the Bear good luck to him. However many of Terry’s fans come to our town just stole around in fancy dress and then be seen in Facebook and Fricker. This part of the event will always remain free no matter how many Disc World fans come here. So let’s do our best to make them all welcome.
arthur pickup
Posts: 3
Comment
Mandy
Reply #11 on : Thu March 15, 2012, 14:54:14
Mandy
Having read several articles by your good self and articles by the previous editor John Baxter, I did think that the Wincanton Window editors ran their own campaigns on items benefiting the town. Especially when I read you article on the notorious TV, and your article on Councillor Dora Hibbard. However I was wrong, so I thank you for correcting me on this matter. Bearing this in mind I will endeavour to pass you articles, prior to any forthcoming events such as Hogswatch, that I think will be overlooked.
davidsmith
Posts: 2
Comment
Milk deliveries, and Hogswatch
Reply #12 on : Thu March 15, 2012, 15:04:56
I, and several others I know, buy raw milk directly from Elliscombe farm, Holton. With enough interest perhaps we could get a delivery service going! And possibly representation at a more frequent town market.

Regarding Hogswatch, to clarify: I'm not aware of an official motion on the part of WBT to sync with Hogswatch, though I've mention the possibility to those involved.

And as for selling tickets to the otherwise free event, the only reason for this is that there will inevitably be concerns about head-counts and venue capacities if the event grows any futher. To get a larger venue will incur costs Bernard will need to cover, including more advanced event management.
Last Edit: March 15, 2012, 15:06:26 by davidsmith  
mandycochrane
Posts: 1
Comment
Writing articles
Reply #13 on : Thu March 15, 2012, 15:11:19
If only I could write more often Arthur. The editing role takes a fair chunk of time, but I squeeze it in around my day job, as does Dave (I keep quiet to my husband how often I'm editing when I ought to be working - sshhh!). John is semi-retired, so perhaps had a little more time to be active on the writing front. But when something infuriates me as much as that fly-tipping incident, I just have to drop everything and contribute, and of course I'll pop up from time to time writing about things in connection with Wincanton Window.
Last Edit: March 15, 2012, 15:13:55 by mandycochrane  

Posts: 3
Comment
Great response
Reply #14 on : Thu March 15, 2012, 19:15:47
When I posted my original response one of my aims was to encourage others to have their say, if we want those that represent us to fight for what we want, then they need to know 'what we want'.

It's so easy to critisize but already, suggestions, visions & solutions have been offered. Well done to all those who were not afraid to 'have their say'. Todays local edition of the Western Gazette is well worth reading, several articles relating to our town & the subject of the original article.

Listed, is a new website, www.wincantontownteam.co.uk it's purpose is to invite feedback on ideas for 'reinvigorating', the town centre. Sadly, I was unable to find the site but this was possibly due to my poor computing skills, if I've got the domain name wrong or have mis-quoted anyone then please post a reply with the correct information.

Time & time again I'm hearing the idea of a market day where the town centre is closed to traffic, lets hope this idea becomes reality.
Nick Colbert
Posts: 1
Comment
Some answers and thoughts
Reply #15 on : Sat March 17, 2012, 15:20:26
I have enquired about Angel Lane for you Fox, apparently the wall is collapsing and the District Council has been in contact with the owner about its repair, but the owner is overseas. I believe they have closed the path because surveyors say the wall is dangerous and could collapse on someone. Apparently the owner has "gone quiet" if that continues the Council will repair the wall and send the bill the owner.

With regard to "progress", I guess it is something we can't avoid and there are some benefits but as a colleague of mine recently said in response to South Somerset District Councils demands for 15,950 new houses:

"I moved here for the peace and quiet, the small towns and villages, a beautiful rural countryside. If I had wanted to live in Yeovil I would have moved there."

I suspect that sums up the view of many.

Finally to Fox, in response to:

"It sounds as though those councillors in charge are doing everything to move business away from the High Street!"

The problem is not the Councillors, speaking for Myself, Colin Winder, Anna Groskop the entire town council and Wincanton Business Together I can assure you we have all done everything in our power to keep the High Street alive. You mention Boots going to the health centre, that was refused by your representatives on the town council unanimously, refused by the District council and both myself and Colin Winder voted against the move from the High Street but the Doctors appealed it was passed on appeal so there was nothing more we could have done. Businesses like Cullingfords and Gillams are well suited to the Trading Estates but we need more encouragement for hard pressed retailers on the High Street.
Last Edit: March 17, 2012, 15:23:05 by Nick Colbert  

Posts: 3
Comment
No words needed
Reply #16 on : Sat March 17, 2012, 19:24:26
On a trip out today around the area to work on some local research work I stopped to show my son something rather special, it was a view from the seating area just above Beanclose Field, you may not know the name but I bet you know the view, hope it lasts.

Unfortunately, I'm unable to display the view from this post but maybe that will encourage a visit. I know more homes are & will be needed but let's redevelope all those empty buildings first.

It's Mothering Sunday tomorrow, if you want to impress, take a walk with the family to the top of Bayford & look out over the land donate to us to the memory of Samuel Deansley, it wont cost a penny but the view is worth a fortune.
dollym
Posts: 1
Comment
access to shops
Reply #17 on : Tue March 20, 2012, 12:48:08
I love shopping in the high street but find my choice limited by the fact that i cannot enter some of the shops as I cannot climb steps or stand for very long. Please in the regeneration of the high street consider the less able members of our community and make all the businesses accessible.
Victor Meldrew
Posts: 2
Comment
Re: Why We Must Regenerate Our High Streets
Reply #18 on : Thu September 20, 2012, 18:18:23
I see there is a singular lack of ideas being put forward as to how the High Street can be regenerated. The only viable suggestion is a monthly market. I am sure that there is sufficient space to hold it.One place would be the rear carpark at the Memorial Hall,this could be enhanced by utillising the Balsam Centre as well as the High St itself and part of Carrington Way. But just what is the intension of the `owner` of the old Green Dragon? and what about the Purple Poppy? Is SSDC trying to ensure Wincanton and the surrounding area exists only as a dormitory for Yeovil? That is a question mooted about several years ago.

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