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The demise of town centres

(115 Posts)
NanaDana Thu 30-Mar-23 07:13:03

We're just back from one of our regular visits to the bonny borders town of Berwick upon Tweed, where yet more high street shops have closed since our last trip. A major factor has been the expansion of the trading estate on the outskirts of town, where two major supermarkets have opened, making three in all. In the town centre, Iceland and M and M are both closing next month, and one of the assistants in B and M Bargains told me that they had taken only £35 the day before. What's your local experience, and what do you think, if anything, can be done about it?

nanna8 Thu 30-Mar-23 07:33:04

Funny the timing of this thread because we have just been saying exactly the same thing about our local town here in Australia. Because of our really harsh lockdowns half the shops in the Main Street have closed- and they have not re- opened. All that are left are cafes, real estate agents and $2 shops. The big undercover shopping centres owned by Chinese investors seem to have done alright,though- mainly chain shops .

Greyduster Thu 30-Mar-23 07:34:13

I paid a rare visit to our town centre last week and I was shocked at the decline. We are one of the largest cities in England and many of our major retailers have closed down: John Lewis and Debenhams to name but two. We are expecting M&S to be the next to add to the death knell. The council don’t seem to have a clue at how to make the city an attractive place to do business. Having a very large out of town retail park doesn’t help, or the increase in online shopping.

M0nica Thu 30-Mar-23 07:35:13

It is a planning matter. If local councils could refuse planning permission to out of town developments on environmental grounds, excess co2 emissions, from all the extra journeys to go to an out of town centre rather than shopping in town.

Katie59 Thu 30-Mar-23 07:41:58

Australia has been selling its soul to China for decades, you are reliant on their goodwill for your lifestyle. There is a price to pay and many nationals around the globe have virtual Chinese puppet governments.

nanna8 Thu 30-Mar-23 07:44:26


Australia has been selling its soul to China for decades, you are reliant on their goodwill for your lifestyle. There is a price to pay and many nationals around the globe have virtual Chinese puppet governments.

Certainly the case here in Victoria with Dan Xiao Ping in charge. He is currently in China cosying up to their government. No press allowed of course.

Georgesgran Thu 30-Mar-23 07:47:29

I nipped into Durham City a couple of weeks ago and was shocked at the state of it. A newish part, near the Market Place had more empty shops than occupied and it was much the same in Silver Street, although a small Tesco is well used by some University students and locals.
Of course, the major draw to the City is the Cathedral and it’s position above the river, but I feel sorry for tourists who have to spend a full day here, especially in poor weather, as once they’ve ‘done’ the Cathedral, there’s not much else to do.
There are retail parks around the City, with bus links, but the City Centre is just dire.

Katie59 Thu 30-Mar-23 07:55:14


It is a planning matter. If local councils could refuse planning permission to out of town developments on environmental grounds, excess co2 emissions, from all the extra journeys to go to an out of town centre rather than shopping in town.

Council want more income from business rates so grant permission for retail parks, but expect to get the same income from the high street. In addition they introduce markets to the high street to bring shoppers back which further reduces shop income.
The last clothes shop, Debenhams closed last year to be replaced by a hotel.

Fleurpepper Thu 30-Mar-23 07:58:27

Use it, or lose it.

WE and our shopping habits witll decide.

karmalady Thu 30-Mar-23 08:04:36


Use it, or lose it.

WE and our shopping habits witll decide.

Exactly and they should be used regularly. My little town is thriving and is not always more expensive eg fresh local butter is 2/3 the price of sainsbury. I can get one potato if I want and yesterday bought just one battery

Shops cannot stay open in the hope of footfall, they need actual footfall. It helps very much that the car park is big enough, central and best of all is free plus there are good clean toilets and pretty benches. Many councils have themselves to blame

TerriBull Thu 30-Mar-23 08:21:46

I thought the new iniative of 15 minute cities would mean that all our daily requirements ought to be within a short journey on foot or bike. Should that become a "thing" how would that bode then for the out of town retail park and could that possibly reverse the fortunes of the town centre, maybe? assuming of course that local people lived with in easy access of their nearby high street.

BlueBelle Thu 30-Mar-23 08:32:33

You re all late to the game this has been happening gradually long before Covid that just put the lid on it
Out of town malls or whatever people call them have been on the up for a good number of years, add Brexit, high street council rates and Covid to the game, stir well, and bingo… shops closing faster than the speed of light
These malls are a nightmare if you don’t have a car, we have two shopping complexes a couple of miles outside town in each direction plus a big big Tesco out the other end of town Yes there are buses but for older people it’s far from easy
Our town centre is morphing into an eating, drinking, vaping Telephone (a few shops) place
Cities will survive , little market towns will probably survive but small to medium sized town will die completely for a shopping experience and will have to convert to eating/ drinking/ leirure centres

farview Thu 30-Mar-23 08:43:45

Our once beautiful town...the biggest town in the UK..has become a ghost town...our council over the years have made a complete mess of it...we have a beautiful Town Hall and stunning civic centre..which is used a lot by filling crews I.e ..Red Rose
..Pesky Blinders..Happy name a few...
Its difficult to walk through town now without being stopped by beggars,homeless people etc...sad!
We do also have a huge retail park..out of town...and that,even though I use it myself as parking is free,has added to the demise of our once beautiful town.😪

farview Thu 30-Mar-23 08:45:25

Film crews...Peaky blinders...stupid phone!!

Galaxy Thu 30-Mar-23 08:54:26

The thing is Georgesgran Durham has been awful for shopping for years, it's a lovely city, but I wouldnt dream of going there to actually buy anything.

Calendargirl Thu 30-Mar-23 09:04:24

I paid a rare visit to our town centre last week and I was shocked at the decline

Says it all really, ‘a rare visit’.

Not knocking what you say, our nearest city is about 20 or so miles away, think I have been there once since Covid.

Mizuna Thu 30-Mar-23 09:07:29

My town centre is thriving, with many artisan shops, market stalls selling fresh fish etc, two hand-made bread shops, a mid-sized Tesco, Poundland, Wilko and an Iceland. Plus a myriad of cafés!

Cabbie21 Thu 30-Mar-23 09:07:45

I have no reason to go into our city any more. So many shops have closed. The central library has been shut for over a year pending relocation. I have stopped going to concerts.
I don’t know what the answer is, as more people now shop online or work from home.
My own little market town meets all my needs and I can walk there- just as well, as parking is tricky. I like to support local shops.
Today I am making a rare trip to an out of town outlet for some clothes. Parking is easy and free, there are roomy changing facilities, toilets and a cafe on site.

NanaDana Thu 30-Mar-23 09:08:26

I don't think anyone is suggesting that this is an overnight phenomenon. Everyone knows its been going on for decades. Yes, Covid provided additional impetus to the decay, but the trend was already rapidly downwards. I'm just wondering where it's all leading. Home shopping has also accelerated the problem, and yes, I'm as guilty as anyone where that's concerned. However, I'm making a resolution to do more shopping in my town centre, as it certainly is a case of "use it or lose it".

Greyduster Thu 30-Mar-23 09:12:48

Our council has a habit of offering small retail businesses sweeteners in the form of premises, rent and rates and then, before they have had a chance to establish themselves, pulling the rug out from under their feet. They did it with a lot of traders when the new market opened, and the market has extensive footfall. Then they spend rate payers money on ridiculous ‘vanity’ projects that can’t hope to be productive or long lasting.

Yammy Thu 30-Mar-23 09:40:04

Our nearest town appeared in the Times at the weekend as one of the best in England. More than half the shops are closed.
A quite large shopping centre that was opposed by a lot of the residents was built near Sainsbury's supermarket, the shops have mainly stood empty.
The best independent woman clothes shop has just closed down and the cinema is probably closing in a few weeks. There is no incentive to shop there except for groceries at the quite good selection of Supermarkets.
A one-off wander as a tourist yes, a castle and a few places of interest, a weekly visit as a resident no, it is so depressing the town is in decline as is the nearest City just like many others.
We all now shop online, you know what you want and can browse at leisure without trudging around to see if things are stocked.
We have turned into an outdoor pursuit shopping area, with plenty of Chains for walking boots etc and supermarkets for your food.
The description of it was completely wrong from a resident's point of view, and even then the area that was suggested to live in you might find a lovely Victorian house cheap but your next-door neighbours will be a house divided into run-down bedsits.
You wonder if anyone has visited or lived in these towns before they write the articles.

Grammaretto Thu 30-Mar-23 09:48:18

It has been declining for decades but rapidly lately.
Our small town centre is a ghost town you wonder where everyone is!
There are 20k people here apparently but you only see a crowd if Santa is visiting or Gala Day.
I shop locally and we have a home grown community store where I volunteer once a week.
This and the other part volunteer run arts centre cafe and a paper heritage museum opening its doors this weekend, are a saviour.
There are very few what I would call real shops.
The Council allow betting shops, vape shops, Turkish barbers, nail bars, restaurants, hairdressers galore.
The businesses get the first 6 months rates free I think, so they open for a short time and then close down.

Doodledog Thu 30-Mar-23 09:55:08

But if people are not using town centres why should they be preserved? I find these discussions to be the tail wagging the dog, really. High Streets die because people shop online. People shop online because it is convenient and they are busy. Why is the answer to that to encourage them back to the centres instead of changing the use of high streets to something people do want? Town centres could be community hubs, with social spaces instead of everything centring on retail and consuming. We could zone them, so that shops are in one area, arts in another and sport somewhere else, and subsidise transport links between them. Or something different altogether. There are all sorts of possibilities if we stop thinking in terms of shopping, which seems to have had its day. The worst thing we can do is sit back and watch while nobody rents retail space and just let it decline. We need councils to show some initiative and improve things.

Galaxy Thu 30-Mar-23 09:57:44

As doodle probably knows I agree completely with her on this grin. Town centres arent some sort of charity that I need to support. I dont go into rubbish restaurants because I feel sorry for them or want to keep them.

JackyB Thu 30-Mar-23 09:58:28

It's no different here in Germany. Every day there is news of another big, well established and often over hundred-year-old chain of shops going bust and the gaping empty shop windows in the town centres are on the increase.

Some shop windows are being used for art displays, many premises are now barbers, nail salons or shisha bars. Some people open cafés. Charity shops are just not a thing here, so that's not an option. I live in a fairly small town, but you also see these empty shops in the larger towns.

However, last November we went to Trier and it was lovely to see actual clothes shops, toy shops and displays of household linen and china. I could have spent an afternoon pottering if DH hadn't been with me. We did get some lovely Christmas presents in one toy shop.