Joe’s Crow Country

I LIKE Royston High Street, which is why I don’t want to see it become like all the others.

Too many High Streets and town centres I have been through recently are beginning to look alike. Pound shops, coffee shops and big brand stores with instantly recognisable logos are infecting where people buy their goods, and causing medieval market towns such as Royston with rich character and independently owned businesses to loose character.

Royston’s main shopping centre is unique compared to others in North Herts: Letchworth has a plush looking, spacious town centre with several precincts. Baldock’s ancient High Street is wide and overloaded with pubs. Hitchin’s cobbled backstreets are picturesque in places but have been spoiled with one too many chain restaurants and shops. Stevenage’s 50s built town centre is functional and large, but carries no charm.

I was recently looking at some old photographs of Royston on the site, and spotted a picture of Dr John’s Record Parlour, on Angel Pavement, just along from The Crow’s office.

To me, the fact that this shop has been replaced by a charity shop (which I realise contribute a service, but do we need so many?), sums up the plight of British town centres.

These are the shops that give towns their character and make them stand out from the rest, as well as attracting visitors.

Royston still has some shops that do this: Sports Kit is an institution in the town, the Ladds sweet shop is completely unique and the Days bakery is a successful local business, and these are the types of shops we should support in order to preserve Royston’s identity.

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David’s Bookshop in Letchworth, the Jolly Brown vintage clothes shop in Hitchin and the Kenny Arnold barbers in Stevenage provide more attraction for me than Waterstones, Topshop or Tony and Guy.

I understand that some big branded shops, such as established names like WH Smiths and Boots, are reliable and traditional, but the balance has to be sought. I hope some of the empty spaces in shop spaces in Royston can be filled with exciting new ventures that can help safeguard the town’s distinctive high street.