Saving our town centres – by Brian Binley MP

Our town and city centres lie at the heart of our communities and are as vital to their health as the heart is to the body. Yet over the last thirty years or so, the centres of many of our communities have suffered a gradual but persistent decline. Ring roads have isolated them, parking charges have depleted them, out-of-town development detracted from them, poor planning undermined them and anti-social behaviour made them less safe and less attractive places to visit.

Whilst many of the individual factors might in themselves not seem to cause major harm, their combined effect over many years can be to put once-active and robust community hubs into seemingly interminable decline. This naturally has an impact on the pride and sense of belonging people feel towards their own communities, but also their country too. Too often I hear people say their town centre is a mess, and in the very next breath add that the country is going downhill, almost as though the two were directly linked. And perhaps they are.                   

The most obvious symptom of this decline is the near disappearance of the independent small retailer from our high streets. They provide diversity, charm, interest and a level of personal service that is becoming all too rare in today’s town centre, and their loss is keenly felt by many. The boarded-up shop fronts, the graffiti, the absence of visitors, all pay sad testimony to the decay of so many of our towns.                                                       

However the trend is not irreversible; restoring small shops to our town centres can be as iconic as restoring salmon to the Thames.

The Conservative Party Enterprise Group has produced a strategy for restoring the ability of local communities to act collectively to rebuild the health of their community hubs. It suggests a new framework together with possible options which are by no means prescriptive and through which new local ventures can be mobilised to support a new wave of community revitalisation, be it in satellite areas around big cities, in smaller cities, towns or in the village high street.

With people in local communities acting together to revitalise our high streets, the Group believes we can create a renewed sense of well-being which will impact upon the health of the nation as a whole and they recommend the report to the Conservative Party as a positive framework for a new Conservative Government.

Should you require a copy of the report please contact Mr Binley’s office by emailing binleyb@parliament.uk

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