In his latest weekly Chronicle column, High Peak MP Robert Largan says he feels more needs to be done to get behind local high streets.
This Saturday, Mettrick’s butchers in Hadfield will shut its doors for the last time. The shop was the real life location for the infamous demon butcher H Briss & Son selling “special stuff” in the League of Gentlemen.
While Mettrick’s successful Glossop shop remains open, the closure is a big blow to Hadfield, when such a brilliant butchers can’t make it work, citing rising overheads and reduced footfall. It is not the only high street shop in recent months to announce its closure. Buxton in particular has been hit by several shops pulling out of the town.
It is no secret that our high streets face huge challenges. Internet giants offer cheap and convenient online shopping. Costs are increasing. Shopping habits are changing. If we are not careful, we could lose the heart of our town centres.
Firstly, we need to look again at the current business rate system. For too many businesses, high rates are the difference between profit and loss at the end of the month.
Secondly, the Council needs to do more to work with local businesses to make our high streets more enjoyable places to shop. That means preserving what makes our local high streets unique, restoring our fantastic historical buildings. It also means providing proper public toilet facilities. We also need to make it easier to get into town centres, by public transport, by bicycle and by car.
We should be shameless in copying good ideas from other successful town centres. Some Councils are forward thinking, offering business rate concessions to new traders. Others offer loans to help new traders set up and to help them market both their business and the town. High Peak Labour Council needs to be far more ambitious and creative in its thinking.
Finally, we need to stop talking our towns down. We should remember how lucky we are to have such unique high streets and some amazing businesses. We should all be working together to sell the High Peak, to bring in new customers, new businesses and new investment.