Nick Bremer, of Churchstow, Kingsbridge, writes:
One reads repeatedly of the apparent demise of the ‘traditional’ high street, a phenomenon brought about by, without doubt, customer preferences for the convenience shopping offered by the supermarket.
This has been brought into focus by the proposals regarding the bottom of Fore Street in Kingsbridge.
Once upon a time there was no such thing as a dedicated shopping street. One should, I feel, remember that the high street itself, as a distinctive and much-loved feature of our town, is in actual fact a relatively recent factor in the total context of the long and ancient history of our country.
Shops, stores and such emporiums of retail grew out of the workshops and trading premises of the artisans of the past. The cobblers, haberdashers or grocers developed in the first place in the dwellings of those offering their services, and probably were scattered around the urban scene where they lived.
At some time these became more centralised as customers demanded, and the high street became as much a concentrated shopping experience as the supermarket or department store has in the years since. The issue may have even attracted as much controversy then as it does now.
Fore Street in Kingsbridge is a very attractive street, typical of many an English market town. I would hate to see its appearance change as drastically as is being threatened.
But there is a possible remedy that has, I feel, a ‘triple-whammy’ benefit.
As properties come up for development, such as The Quay pub, let us consider a change of use to residential as opposed to a commercial solution.
A mixture of residential conversions of commercial premises to housing would, a) help with housing shortages, b) retain the appearance of Fore Street, and c) keep Fore Street alive and kicking with real people actually living in it alongside real and vibrant shops, both supporting the other.
I appreciate that the giants of international commerce will argue that a building will generate much more business and revenue than a mere home. However, if we want to see the decline and demise of our towns, the answer must lie with our town council reflecting what its town inhabitants desire.