Please don't kill our town

PUBLISHED: 10:57 23 February 2006 | UPDATED: 14:36 12 May 2010

How to kill a town: - Allow housing developments to eat into the commercial area, putting up land and property values and inflating business rents. - Charge business rates that with those high rents make retailing of low-cost everyday goods uneconomical.

How to kill a town: - Allow housing developments to eat into the commercial area, putting up land and property values and inflating business rents. - Charge business rates that with those high rents make retailing of low-cost everyday goods uneconomical. - Irritate the local population by charging high prices for inadequate parking. How to build a thriving enterprise: - Reserve enough land. - Provide enough free parking. - Sell lots of everyday goods so that people need to come anyway, then sell them lots of other things as well. (If it sounds like Tesco, that's because Tesco knows all this). People are not only the life of a town, they are its commercial lifeblood. What they spend has to keep the town centre healthy - pay the proprietors and the workers in the various establishments that attract the people, pay the rates taxes and other civil charges levied on those establishments, and pay the landlords a return on their investments. And at present, these people are getting scarcer and scarcer. Our growing population is more than able to sustain the traditional town centre, and I for one prefer the attractively - and expensively - redeveloped areas of town, with its sociable spaces, to the sterility of the Tesco aisles. But sadly, responsibility for managing Royston as a commercial centre is so fragmented among different bodies, and different arms of remote monoliths, that disaster is almost inevitable. The twice weekly market is a sensitive measure of the commercial viability of Royston town centre, and the market is dwindling fast. Somehow we need more of the responsibility for Royston town centre to be in local hands. Planning decisions, car parking decisions, and no doubt many other decisions that affect the viability of our town centre are being made too far away for their consequences to be appreciated. Every time planning permission is given for a social or commercial site to be redeveloped for housing, the commercial and social heart is suffocated a little more; and by savagely putting up car parking charges, North Herts District Council is trying to over-milk an ailing cow which it has been suffocating for too long. CHRIS COWSLEY Tannery Drift Royston

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