A “big idea” to help Uckfield High Street fight the threat of internet retailing and out-of-town shopping centres and malls is being developed by Wealden District Council.
A council report, Streets Ahead, says the changes are permanent and change cannot be prevented. See our main story here.
It says towns in the district, such as Uckfield, can use these changes as an opportunity for a new beginning.
The council is recommending the town works towards:
- Creating a positive sentiment
- Developing local ideas, plans and actions
- Ensuring short-term reinvigoration to attract people back in
- Providing lasting value
- Reinventing for the long-term
- Working collaboratively on developments.
The report says it is important for a town such as Uckfield to be busy and vibrant to be successful.
All about sentiment – council
“Unsuccessful high streets lack vibrancy and become desolate and unattractive. In essence, this is all about ‘sentiment,” the council says.
It picks out the work done by the volunteers of the Brighter Uckfield Campaign (although not named in the report) as a key factor in the town getting the “basics right”.
The report states: “In Uckfield, a team of volunteer litter clearers was created – involving people from across the community including students and school children. The litter squads would patrol the high street areas clearing away any refuse and generally making the place look clean and inviting.”
“If a high street improves its appearance, or creates events that stimulate interest, shoppers are attracted back in numbers and existing traders will be encouraged to raise their game and new more enlightened enterprises will be encouraged to set up shop. Similarly, if progress is made with the choice and quality of shops and the exceptional levels of customer service offered, this will attract new and existing customers to come back.
“This in turn will provide an incentive for things to be done to improve the environment.
“Ultimately, successful high streets need to offer an experience that attracts people back again and again – an experience that everyone will want to recommend to their friends and family.”
The Streets Ahead document notes that Uckfield and Crowborough had well organised local groups working on ambitious local plans but when “these plans stalled, the local groups lost some of their momentum”.
“However, even in these cases, the hiatus in longer term thinking has not prevented the implementation of many good local ideas for improving the attractiveness of the high street and encouraging shoppers,” the report says.
Wealden District Council said it was important to understand the “dynamics of our high streets”. It has established a simple survey that involved walking the high streets and recording what type of shop was in each shop front. Apart from recording the individual shops, the resulting data also allows the council to easily analyse the mix of shops – within a series of simple categories: retail social, services, offices, charity and closed.