Kate writes a bi-weekly column for the Burton Mail. This column was originally featured in the 5th November print edition.
Recently, I caught some footage shown on the BBC of British highstreets from by-gone decades. Customers were going from shop to shop to buy individual items and being served directly by a shop attendant behind a great big counter – full of different products. It was a stark reminder of how much our shopping habits have changed over the years just as much as our highstreets.
Our highstreets are unquestionably going through a difficult time right now with the ongoing health pandemic and I recognise the concerns of many shop keepers that customers will turn to online shopping during the time limited lockdown. However, in many respects, the shops doing best before and during this crisis are those shops providing an experience and in-person customer service – like that of years gone by - which are not able to be replicated online.
This is offering a revival of British highstreets and is a change which must continue after this lockdown and long after Coronavirus. Here in Burton, we are leading the way and helping create that revival through the Stronger Towns Partnership, the redevelopment of Station Street and most recently the central Government-funded Towns Deal. The Strong Towns Partnership (STP) is the working group made up of retail and local councils representatives, chaired by Burton Albion’s Chairman Ben Robinson, driving these positive changes for our town centre.
This week the STP announced that it had received a phenomenal response to its call for possible developments and strong support from residents for proposals to boost the towns economy and increase footfall. A central theme of the proposals is to enhance the Market Place and Highstreet along with making the most of Burton’s greatest environmental asset, the Washlands. By properly integrating all three we have a unique opportunity to create a more attractive place to spend time and crucially, for the benefit of our high street, money. Possible plans in the next phases of improving Burton town centre include, improving historic buildings around the high street, moving the library to the Market Place and increasing cycling and walking provision.
The STP will shortly be putting a bid into Government in an effort of getting additional cash to help fund these further improvements to our town. This, and the work that has already taken place, is encouraging and provide reasons to be cheerful for the future. Whilst I know the short term is worrying for businesses, we must look to the future and the continuing work of the STP is already helping to secure the long-term future of Burton’s town centre.